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I take my hat off in respect - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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As a bloody day unravelled across London , I followed the British government’s response in the media. Let me begin by expressing my utmost admiration to the authorities in London for exercising restraint. Prime Minister Blair’s speech, in the aftermath of the violence, caught my eye as he kept his feelings under control and showed respect to innocent Arabs and Muslims around the country. His was a speech free of accusation, suspicion, and emotional language. One of the first steps the Metropolitan Police undertook was to visit mosques and Islamic centers around the capital to reassure the faithful.

For its part, the British media, as it should, didn’t feature any provocative claims or ridiculous conversations. No one accused a specific people or race; no one attacked Arabs and Muslims, the media opting, instead for self restraint. In the early hours of Thursday, I followed the media coverage with apprehension, recalling how some US media organizations covered the attacks on September 11, 2001 and remembering how the Arab media has portrayed recent events. This was a critical time with fear engulfing the city and anxiety palpable everywhere. Any attempts to exploit the public’s emotions would have been extremely dangerous.

Londoners also deserve to be applauded for their actions. I usually loathe relying on taxis to get around the capital. On Thursday, however, the driver of a taxi taking me to my children’s school did everything in his power to calm me down, especially after the police said the area was cordoned off. He said not to worry, “we will park the car and walk over to the school.” He asked me about my job and, immediately after hearing my answer, turned the radio on; “Listen to the news and you will see that everything is fine”.

At that point in the day, mobile phone networks had collapsed under the weight of phone calls.

After ensuring my children were safe, I thanked God for the prevalence of rationality and wisdom. 24 hours after the explosions, it was business as usual across London. I write this in gratitude, surrounded by Arabs and Muslims who would have been a target had there been uncontrolled feelings of anger.

Unfortunately, every time terrorists strike, innocent civilians suffer.

On that bloody day in London , I came to realize that governments, irrespective of time and space, should always be in charge of and not be lead by the public. The media also needs to avoid adding fuel to the fire and it will reap the benefits of caution. On Thursday, the restaurants and public houses were full of people seeking the latest news on giant television screens. Imagine what might have happened had the media presented a provocative and biased picture. It certainly would’ve lead to tragedy. No one in the media spoke of the situation in Iraq or events in Afghanistan . To do so would equate the with the media department for al Qaeda.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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