It was for me the most surprising thing to emerge from Britain since the unprecedented playing of the US national anthem during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Yet, it was so inconspicuous that had I so much as blinked, I might have gone to my grave unaware.
Four simple words: “and people of none.”
Here is the context: Prime Minister Tony Blair addresses the people of Britain to announce the participation of British forces in the initial military strikes against the Al Qaeda network and the Taliban regime. About two-thirds way through his speech, in explaining why September 11 concerns Britain, he :
First, let us not forget that the attacks of Sept. 11 represented the worst terrorist outrage against British citizens in our history. The murder of British citizens, whether it happened overseas or not,is an attack upon Britain.
But even if no British citizen had died, it would be right to act. This atrocity was an attack on us all, on people of all faiths and people of none.
“People of all faiths and people of none.” What did he call it? “Us all.” “Us all,” including the nonreligious. “Us all,” including the nonbelievers. “Us all,” including me.
Would that my own President might say something similar. Would that my own President might give us just four little words of support and solidarity in the midst of his calls for prayer and faith, and his invocations of divine support. Would that he might show us that he, too, acknowledges that we of no faith, no less than those of all faiths, suffered and died on September 11; that we face the same threats as any Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Hindu on US soil; that we are citizens and patriots, workers and soldiers, parents and children. Would that he might show us that he, too, recognizes that we, no less than believers, are human beings.
But until that fortunate day should, if ever, dawn upon our nation, my heartfelt thanks to you, Prime Minister Blair.
Los Angeles Times (8 October 2001)