Boris Johnson the Mayor of London carefully cultivates the image of a bumbling oaf just emerging from PG Wodehouse’s Drones club, this is to cover up the fact that he is a rather shrewd political operator. Whilst being aware of his carefully hidden intellect it never occurred to anyone that Boris is actually an expert in theology and comparative religion. Boris is able, from his no doubt in depth understanding of Islam, to assure us that the recent terrorist atrocity in Woolwich was free from the taint of Islam, telling us that “It is completely wrong to blame this killing on the religion of Islam.”
Johnson’s chum David Cameron, that living embodiment of the Peter Principle, assures us that the attack “was also a betrayal of Islam”, and that “there is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”
However, one of the perpetrators, whom we should assume had a basic knowledge of why he committed this atrocity, justified running over Drummer Lee Rigby, hacking him to death with knives and a machete and attempting to decapitate him, on the authority of the Koran. He said:
‘There are many, many ayah [religious verses]throughout the Koran that says we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our land women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.’
It would seem that at least one the perpetrators thought it had something to do with Islam, even identifying Afghanistan and Iraq as “our land” despite being from south London himself.
From media reaction it is apparent that it is just too difficult to talk of the religious ideology which motivated the murderers. There is a growing narrative within the media and political classes that this was not a terrorist act, instead it is being increasingly viewed as a political act.
There are a number of reasons for this. There is the laudable wish to protect a small minority in our community from being stigmatised by the actions of a few. Yet the people who would most benefit from an open discussion of Islam and the ways in which it differs from other religions, particularly Christianity, are Muslims themselves. At present it is seen as an unwelcome import shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. Those who would close down discussion of Islam are promoting the very ignorance which breeds intolerance.
There is simply fear, our social and political elites are not renowned for courage. It is easy to sneer at Christianity and sack Christians who wear artefacts indicating their faith at work, there is little comeback. If Islam is treated differently it is not only down to physical fear, although that exists, it is the greater social fear of being rejected by the herd. If their fellows amongst the elites overheard them making remarks critical of Islam they would be shunned. To be labelled “Islamophobic” is to face social exclusion in our elite circles.
Most importantly there is simply an intellectual and emotional disconnect, our elites just don’t “get” religion. Being devoid of faith themselves it is incomprehensible to them that anyone could have a deep seated religious belief which motivated them to take such an act.
Religion is a language they don’t speak and they refuse to learn it so that they might understand the natives. They are like the monoglot Brit who demands everyone else speaks English, and when they don’t he just shouts louder in English. Our elites prefer mindless clichés and hackneyed phrases such as; “a religion of peace”, “all religions are the same”, and “refusal to over-react to fundamentalism.”
If we truly want to assist the overwhelming majority of Muslims who wish to simply get on with their lives, if we truly wish to take the wind out of the sails of those such as the disorganised and frustrated thugs in the English Defence League, if we truly wish for a peaceful and harmonious society, then we have to talk about Islam.
We have to ask if there is an institutionalised radicalism within Islam in the UK of the kind which permits young British men to owe their primary allegiance to “our land” thousands of miles away. Unless we talk about it we will never deal with it. Physicians are accustomed to men, like me, who respond to illness with the mantra, “Ignore it and it’ll go away.” Sometimes those patients die.