London residents came under terrorist attack on the morning of July 7 despite the global war on terrorism.

Another group of four men almost struck again on July 21 to underline the fact that combating terrorism is a very long war, which cannot be decided here or there. It becomes increasingly difficult to win this war because it is hard if not impossible to identify who the enemy is. Unlike the Bolsheviks of former Soviet Union, al-Qaeda does not issue out party registration cards. Now, the terrorists have mostly avoided hard targets such as planes and government buildings. Instead, they attack nightclubs, hotels and commuter rails as seen in London and Madrid bombings (Krauthammer, 2005). Several articles have been written and speeches made by community leaders, politicians and government leaders all over the world after the London bombings. However, much has not been said to prevent future occurrence. Nonetheless, this essay will provide guidelines for improving intergroup relations in the UK after the London bombings by making use of some social psychological theories. The theories to be used in this essay include; theories of prejudice, social learning theory, realistic conflict theory/frustration-aggression theory, and theories of improving interethnic relations in that order. Before then, I will give some insight on what could have gone wrong and these theories will to an extent help in understanding why the bombers committed those horrible acts of violence and simultaneously propound ways to improve intergroup relations in the UK after the bombings. In the end, I will conclude by suggesting some personal views on how to improve on these relations. It is not easy to understand the mindset of those involved in terrorism. Every analysis so far is based on hypothesis and has been interpreted in social, political and religious undertones. Ruby (2002) argues that act of terror is a form of political violence carried out by a group of people who have no military power to fight in conventional manner. It becomes means to an end o fighting poverty, an unjust government and principles of inequality. Also, Shaw (1988: 366) in Hudson (1999, pp 34-35) explains:
Apparently membership in a terrorist group often provides a solution to the pressing needs of which the inability to achieve a desired niche in traditional society is the coup the grace. The terrorist identity offers the individual a role in society, albeit a negative one, which is commensurate with his or her prior expectations and sufficient to compensate for past losses. Group membership provides a sense of potency, an intense and close interpersonal environment, social status, potential access to wealth and a share in what may be a grandiose but noble social design. The powerful psychological forces of conversion in the group are sufficient to offset traditional social sanctions against violence… To the terrorist their acts may have the moral status of religious warfare or political liberation.

From a more religious point of view, the honour of dying in combat and go to paradise (martyrdom) is enough reason for misled few to become terrorists (Louis and Taylor, 2002). In the case of London bombings, it is also assumed that those young men were disturbed by British government support of American foreign policy in the Middle East, support for Israel, sanctions and bombing of Iraq; military bases in Saudi Arabia (Louis and Taylor, 2002). The above hypothesis are not justifiable in any sense to engage in this horrendous act as the theories below throw more light into improving relations rather than creating more problems. In Santrock (2003), it is understood that prejudice is “an unjustified negative attitude toward an individual based on the individual’s membership in a group” (p. 670). The tendency to place people into categories and separate the world into “us” and “them” creates dichotomy and hatred. Also, name calling, arrogant nomenclature, hate speech, generalisation, and stereotyping can advance bigotry and lead to violence. Stereotyping would mean “statements which denigrate out1

groups or are used to glorify in-group” (Wetherell, 1996, p. 189). It is very wrong to prejudge every man with long bears, look Asian or has head tie on the head as a potential terrorist. This kind of attitude generates unnecessary tension within a community. After all, one of the would be London bombers is a Jamaican (Krauthammer, 2005). Gerstenfeld (2002) condemned President George W. Bush statement in the wake of September 11, 2001 terrorist’s attack on the World Trade Centre. Bush saying that you are either with us or against us in his evil versus good policy does not help any matters. It is interesting to see that British Prime Minister Tony Blair did not adopt similar approach after the London bombings. This position helps the fact that those who witness none prejudice attitudes are less likely to show bias themselves (Wetherell, 1996). In this manner, hate speech, which usually exacerbates hate crime, is totally avoided. In social learning theory, it is observed that terrorists are brainwashed and trained to the extent that their actions become unconscious and show no remorse when confronted. Ruby (2002) posits that when aggression and violence are rewarded, it has the tendency to proliferate future occurrence. According to her, it is learned from a political action that is encouraged by social issues and maintained by intrinsic rewards. Terrorist actions must be condemned by all and soundry and punished to avoid reinforcement (Santrock, 2003 and Weiten, 1998). Good morals and behaviours must be rewarded positively and bad behaviours must not be condoned. Gerstenfeld (2002) helps in the interpretation of realistic conflict theory as group hostility over scarce resources. One group blames the other group for their misfortune such as unemployment and poverty in the society. This blame game results in prejudice and hatred among the community. Similar to this realistic conflict theory is the frustration-aggression hypothesis as a result of relative-deprivation which include gap between rising expectations and need for satisfaction. In this wise, frustration leads to aggression (Hudson, 1999). The solution to combating these two problems of competition of scarce resources and frustration is to share resources among the general public. Social grants should be made available to the unemployed rather than putting much money in military capacity building. This will promote common fate and change people’s perception towards identifying and conforming to British-influenced norms (Louis and Taylor, 2002). The theories of improving interethnic relations obviously provide more meaningful guidelines towards improving intergroup relations in UK. Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues (1961) in Santrock (2003) observed that “we/they” competition between two groups of 11-year-olds in Robbers Cave, Oklahoma transformed the groups into opposing “armies”. However, creating cooperation between groups rather than competition develops positive relationships and increases interdependence. In essence, people must work together to achieve a common goal. It has to be a collective effort in trying to know why there was such an attack in UK and at the same time find ways to avoid future occurrence. It should not be seen as one group (indigenes) competing against another group (immigrants). The notion of “united we stand and divided we fall” should be inculcated in the minds of the residence. Still on theories of improving interethnic relations, intimate contact is another possible way to break down “in-group/out-group” and “we/they” barrier (Santrock, 2003). People must show each other that they care and share in the grieves of one another. Freyd (2002, p. 5) suggests, “tend and befriend” which is an act of caring compassion and unity. People must take care to


avoid hiding behind anger by reflecting on what happened, write about and talk about it in schools and community gatherings. This can be done through vigils, public education campaigns and discussion groups. Similarly, it is easy to get British Muslims to agree on one thing, which is viewing US foreign policy with despair. High profile Muslims have this sense that US is insensitive to the Muslim views. For example, the plane carrying Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) was diverted to Bangor, Maine on its way to Washington from London in September 2004 with the simple excuse that his name turned up on a watch list of people suspected to have ties with terrorists. Also, in July 2005, Zaki Badawi, a highly and international recognised Islamic cleric was denied entry to US after his plane landed in New York. These two scenarios were not challenged by British governmentviewed as always supporting US policies even when it is to the detriment of her citizens (Bird, 2005). The British government should reach out to Arabs or Muslims to talk about these issues and find out other perspectives to what is already believed. Groups have to interact and depend on one another’s unique strength to address a common concern (Lee, 2002). In sum, different hypothesis and theories have been applied in this essay to proffer guidelines for improving intergroup relations in UK after the London bombings. It is a general consensus that no particular theory can best explain or provide the much needed guidelines in this context as in any other case. Therefore, it will be advisable to go back to the basis for a long term solution. Children should be brought together as early as nursery school days to play, study and grow up together in a multicultural and multiracial environment. This will encourage them to know better the behaviour of other groups on first hand basis. This methodology will reduce if not eradicate prejudice and “in-group/out-group” barrier as the children grow up. Moreover, children should be brought up by their parents on good moral family value systems. The Muslim community have important role to play in this regard by teaching their children the correct doctrine rather than allow them to be taught the ones that will make them vulnerable to engage in abominable acts. So goes the saying that “charity begins at home”.


Reference: Bird, M. (2005). In Both Sorrow and Anger. TIME, July 25/Vol. 166, No. 4. Freyd, J.J (2002). “In the wake of terrorist attack, hatred may mask fear” Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1). Gerstenfeld, P.B. (2002). “A time to hate: situational antecedents of intergroup bias” Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1). Hudson, R.A. (1999). “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who becomes a terrorist and why?” In A report prepared under an interagency agreement by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Psych of Terrorism.pdf. Krauthammer, C. (2005). Why That’s Ridiculous. TIME, July 18/Vol. 166. No. 2. Lee, K.S. (2002). “Building intergroup relations after September 11” Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1). Louis, W.R & Taylor, D..M. (2002). “Understanding the September 11 terrorist attack on America: the role of intergroup theories of normative influence” Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1). Ruby, C.L. (2002). “Are terrorists mentally deranged?” Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1). Sabtrock, J.W. (2003). Psychology (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill. Weiten, W. (1998). Psychology Themes and Variations. (1 st ed.). USA: Wadsworth. Wetherell, M. (1996). Chapter Four: Group conflict and social psychology of racism. In M. Wetherell (ed.), Identities, Groups and Social Issues. London: Sage.


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