List of Missing Is as Diverse as London Itself
Nazy Mozakka came from Iran. Slimane Ihab, from Tunisia, arrived by way of Paris. Gamze Gunoral, a Turk, moved to London just a few weeks ago. Rachelle Yuen of Mauritius, Karolina Gluck from Poland and Anat Rosenberg of Israel had settled here years before.
The names of the missing -- now presumed dead -- read like the phone directory of the United Nations. Their faiths run the gamut: Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Their faces, many shown smiling on posters of the missing that flutter from billboards and light posts, could be a photo album from a company committed to diversity.
The four blasts that rocked public transport Thursday sent shock waves through the melting pot that is London and reverberated around the world.
Islamic extremists suspected of unleashing the bombs may have been aiming not just at Britain but at the ideals of tolerance and opportunity that have drawn such a diverse community here.
Though police are still far from identifying the perpetrators or their victims, suspicions of involvement by Islamic extremists have provoked at least four attacks on mosques around the country, and the Muslim community fears further reprisals.
Despite that initial flurry of hate crimes, Britain’s religious and political leaders say the attacks have united this multicultural bastion.
“These criminals are the enemies of all of us,” said Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organization whose clerics gathered Friday to condemn the bombings and any insinuation that they were carried out in the name of Islam. “We are confident that the majority of British citizens understand that such crimes are a perversion.”
The council appealed to Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims to come forward with any help they could provide to authorities pursuing those responsible.
Pope Benedict XVI used his Sunday Mass at the Vatican to deplore the bombings as an attempt to “foment feelings of hatred.” Anglican Bishop Richard Chartres said at a special interfaith service here attended by Christians, Muslims, Jews and Sikhs that the attacks were a “darkness” into which Londoners cast “a shining light” with their shoulder-to-shoulder relief efforts.
Prime Minister Tony Blair set the tone for his nation’s stand against violence aimed at division, emphasizing democratic values.
“When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed,” he vowed in the immediate aftermath of the blasts. “When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided, and our resolve will hold firm....Our values will long outlast theirs.”
Noting the solidarity of rescue workers, police and average citizens plunging in to help in the crisis, London Mayor Ken Livingstone pointed out that 300 languages are spoken in his city and that as much as 30% of its nearly 7 million people are first-, second- and third-generation immigrants.
The attacks on Britain’s moral bedrock inspired vows of cohesion even among columnists of the often-reactionary London tabloids.
In the News of the World on Sunday, parliamentarian and former Conservative Party leader William Hague dismissed suggestions that Thursday’s attack had been provoked by Britain’s support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
“Their objection to us is that we are a free, open, multicultural society in which people worship the god of their choice and decide, by and large, on their own way of life,” he wrote in his weekly column. “London now rivals New York as one of the greatest cities of the modern world, and that makes it the target of those who hate that world.”
It is that latitude of lifestyle choice that has attracted people from some of the most repressed and impoverished places.
Many of the people missing after last week’s bombings reflect the city’s cross-cultural hybrids, which are changing the face of ethnic enclaves like Middle Eastern Edgware Road, Jewish Golders Green, Caribbean Brixton and African Southall. Notting Hill’s annual August carnival draws ethnic musicians and dancers from all over London, as does the South Asian Brick Lane summer festival.
Shahara Akther Islam was born in Britain 20 years ago to a Bangladeshi family that had immigrated in the 1960s. A faithful Muslim, she straddled her traditional roots and modern London, as comfortable in jeans and T-shirts as in the traditional tunics and pants known as shalwar kameez, recalls her cousin Alaoudin Asghar.
Some of the missing people of African origin had been in Britain their whole lives, the children and grandchildren of those who had fled the terrors of internecine conflict, apartheid, disease or hunger.
Gladys Wandowa, a 51-year-old mother of two, of Kenyan descent, was working as an office cleaner at night while taking classes at University College London. Anthony FatayiWilliams, 26, of Nigerian descent, was an oil company executive.
In one of the more painful ironies, 39-year-old Rosenberg left her native Israel in part to escape the suicide bombings of the intifada, her boyfriend, John Falding, told London papers.
She was on the phone with Falding at 9:47 a.m. Thursday to tell him she had managed to steer clear of the chaotic exodus from Underground stations set off by three explosions almost an hour earlier. She had found a seat on the No. 30 bus moving through Tavistock Square, she told him, just as panicked screams erupted and the cellphone connection went dead.