Even though England is more secular than the U.S., British Prime Ministers seem even keener than American Presidents to coddle religion—especially Islam—and to ascribe the malevolence of extreme Islamists to anything but religion. After last week’s horrific massacre in the Nairobi shopping mall, P.M. David Cameron said this:
‘These appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion – they don’t. They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world. They don’t represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world.’
But what kind of extremism? Whence their “warped view of the world”? And if they’re doing something in the name of Islam, then they’re certainly representing at least their own conception of Islam. How disingenuous can you get? Really, “they don’t represent Muslims anywhere in the world”?
Over at The Spectator, Douglas Murray rightly takes Cameron to task for this in a piece called “No, Mr. Cameron. The Kenyan massacre is all about Islamism.” He also notes that, in a Guardian piece, Sir (!) Simon Jenkins blamed the violence not on extreme Islamist belief, but on—wait for it—shopping malls:
‘The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.’
That’s right: we shouldn’t build shopping malls because they just inspire terrorism. That’s like blaming rape victims for wearing revealing clothes.
Murray tells the unpalatable truth:
I don’t think any sensible person would argue that the perpetrators represent all Muslims. But it seems strange to say that a separation of people — and massacre of them — based solely on their religious identity can be said to have nothing to do with religion.
. . .All of which suggests, for the thousandth time, that everybody is trying to avoid the point.
I can see why politicians like David Cameron want to make sure that nobody blames Muslims as a whole for attacks like this. But telling the lie that such attacks have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam does no good at all. It lets the extremists off the hook and infuriates everybody else who end up wondering why the Prime Minister cannot see what everybody else can see.
As I have said often in response to this ‘noble lie’, the only way that Islam is going to get through its current problems is if followers of the religion realise that they have to actively confront the problem. Each provision of an opt-out and excuse delays the day when the religion properly confronts itself and makes the claims of the jihadis a wholly impermissible — instead of plausible and sometimes permissible — response to the religion in whose name they act.
If a group of armed, militant Christians attacked an abortion clinic, would people blame it on the clinics? Would they go this far out of their way to claim that it had nothing to do with the Christian belief that fetuses have souls? Well, maybe, but I don’t think the excuses would be so widespread.
While religion is largely off limits, some religions are more off limits than others. And we accomplish nothing by ignoring that. In fact, it’s counterproductive to ignore it, because coddling the kind of beliefs that spawn terrorism simply allows their continued existence.
In the meantime, you’ve probably heard that yesterday and the day before, Islamic militants, also from the “Boko Haram” organization, killed 40 students at the Yobe State College of Agriculture in Nigeria. As the New York Times reports:
In its war against the Nigerian state, Boko Haram has singled out government institutions, especially schools, for attack. One of its tenets is that Western-style education, not based on the Koran, in conventional schools is sinful and un-Islamic; the group has burned numerous schools in Maiduguri, the largest city in the region, and in early July it attacked a government secondary school in the town of Mamudo, killing 42 people, mostly students.
Yet a civil servant named Ibrahim rushes again to excuse Islam:
Ibrahim condemned the attackers. “Nobody can explain what they want,” he said. “All of the students that died today are Muslims. No single Christian was killed. This is not a religious war. These people that perpetrated this call themselves Muslims. But this is against the teachings of Islam.”
One can certainly interpret some of the teachings of Islam as militant, even from the Qur’an. But the “teachings of Islam” also include those teachings that derive from Islam, including Boko Haram’s view that Western-style education violates their faith. Not a religious war? Is the animus between Sunnis and Shiites, which has killed hundreds of thousands, not a religious war because both groups are “Muslims”?
This type of waffling is disingenuous. We can try to stamp out Boko Haram, but until its ideology disappears, and its members stop indoctrinating their children in hatred, the match that kindles attacks like these will remain lit.
A reminder of what this kind of religious belief produces: