Thursday, May 23, 2013

A one- off act of terror maybe - but we need to look deeply at the reasons for it

The boneheads of the "English Defence League" have acted with predictable ignorance and violence to the horrific crime committed in Woolwich yesterday. But whilst the EDL actions were extreme underlying them are the same fears and prejudices that have seen the rise of UKIP and significant Islamophobia in British society.

Since 9/11 and 7/7 we have a heightened awareness of the dangers presented by Islamic terrorism. That people do despicable acts in the name of Allah is not in dispute. That the vast majority of Muslims around the world live peaceful lives threatening nobody is forgotten when the terrorists strike - waving the Koran as they do so.

There is unease in the West about Islam - it would be unhelpful to deny that fact. Of the world's great religions Islam is undoubtedly the one most alien to Western values. That Muslims can live peaceful and productive lives in Western societies is undeniable - but that they do this, very often, in a manner that is separate from the mainstream culture stokes up the fires of prejudice. 

The appeal of UKIP is based on rejection of the unfamiliar. So the idea that decisions are taken "abroad" not in Britain is core to their pitch - you can't trust "Johnny Foreigner". And you certainly don't want more of them coming here. UKIP's anti immigration stance is the main reason for their rise in the polls.

The anti immigration stance of UKIP is complemented by their rejection of multiculturalism. In their view the one leads to the other - and indeed vice versa. The more immigration by those of a different cultural backgrounds the more varied our culture becomes. And the more we praise the benefits of multiculturalism the more we are likely to tolerate, even encourage, immigration.

Islam, as I have argued, is the religion most challenging to the white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian (Protestant) core culture in Britain. That challenge is rarely problematic for most of us - it presents no threat and its presence is highly localised. That parts of our cities have become predominantly Muslim - meaning that the residents look different, behave differently and worship differently is only a concern to the deeply prejudiced who find this fact offensive. If these residents obey the laws of the land then that should be enough - and for most of us it is. 

But whilst those of us who enjoy multiculturalism and see little threat from it it is also undeniable that at the outer fringes of our British Islamic communities lie some very nasty and dangerous people with views and behaviour utterly alien to us. The 7/7 bombers were born and bred in Britain. We have the preaching of extreme Islamic positions in some of our Mosques. There is a tiny but lethal minority of Muslims who want to do us harm. 

Whether the Woolwich murderers turn out to be sole agents, acting independently of any organised terrorism groups we will see. It seems likely. But to claim that their action is disconnected from their Faith is nonsense. That it is a perverted version of true Islam is no doubt true. But from 9/11 right through to yesterday "Allahu Akbar" was the cry as the evil men did their work. 


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