Apologists (including David Cameron) try their best to avoid pinning religious massacres on Islam

September 30, 2013 • 6:20 am

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:

Rescue workers and family members attempted to identify the shrouded bodies of students killed overnight in an attack at an agricultural college in Gujba, Nigeria. (AP via the New York Times)

h/t: Ant

142 thoughts on “Apologists (including David Cameron) try their best to avoid pinning religious massacres on Islam

  1. Why stop at Islam? All religions have blood on their hands and not just in centuries gone by, is not Dr. Tiller still dead? is his family not without him at evening dinner? Theists have been killing for their god(s) since the beginning of time, the only way that is to stop is to dump the myths and the attitude that comes along with it.

    1. Who said anything about stopping at Islam? Did the OP not make several statements indicating that Islam was not being singled out? Does every criticism of Islam need to have appended to it a comprehensive listing of the violences inspired and justified by all religious faiths in the historical record?

      1. Surely not, but it is clear that both theists and non-theists alike need to understand they can not hide behind the idea that “well that’s that group/religion, not mine. Mine is way better then that”
        I’d hope I wouldn’t have to remind any non-theist that religion is and always has been bloody and violent, while theists are always needing to be reminded that their “religion of peace” is by far not that.

        1. In that case it seems then that it would have been more to your point if you had provided examples of violence inspired or justified by atheism. Or at least committed by atheists.

            1. If only both had abandoned their atheism and welcomed the loving embrace of Quetzalcoatl, the world would have been spared the Purges and the Killing Fields.

              Wait — what? Worng god? How ’bout Mars? Shiva? YHWH?


            2. Josef Stalin’s “very religious” mother named him after St. Joseph, and wanted him to become a priest. Stalin himself supposedly claimed that his father had been a priest, and he was purportedly “damaged by violence” while being “raised in a poor priest-ridden household.” As a youth, Stalin spent five years in a Greek Orthodox seminary, after which he purportedly renounced his religion. In his later years, Stalin apparently embraced Christianity once more. As Stalin biographer Edvard Radinsky remarks, “During his mysterious retreat [of June 1941] the ex-seminarist had decided to involve the aid of the God he had rejected.” Radinsky likewise chronicles a number of religious comrades in Stalin’s immediate circle. It is evident that, whether for good or bad, religion played a significant role in Stalin’s life.

              Adolf Hitler was raised a Catholic, and in a speech in 1922 he remarked, “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter…” In his autobiography Mein Kampf (1.2), Hitler stated:

              Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.

              Throughout his life, Hitler invoked God and “the Lord,” demonstrating his religious, not atheistic, nature. Pol Pot was raised a Buddhist and Catholic. In this regard, Dr. Ian Harris, a Reader in Religious Studies at the University College of St. Martin, relates: “In one of his early writings Pol Pot wrote approvingly that the ‘democratic regime will bring back the Buddhist moralism because our great leader Buddha was the first to have taught [democracy].'” Although in comparison to the Abrahamic religions its history is far less violent, Buddhism has not been entirely devoid of atrocity in its spread and practice.

              Source: http://freethoughtnation.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=334%3Awere-stalin-hitler-and-pol-pot-atheists

              1. Preaching to the choir, but for the sake of the argument:

                Let’s cross out Pol Pot and of course Hitler from the atheist list. Still, as far as we know, Stalin was an atheist regardless of his religious education, and the communist regime under Stalin did promote atheism.

                In the eyes of many theists this illustrates that atheism is, at least partly, to blame for the atrocities carried out by the regime.

                Luckily there are no tenets in atheism and thus it is very hard to point to atheism as the motivation behind the killings.

              2. Jesper Both Pedersen
                Please tell me how not believing in something leads one to kill for it… That assertion is simply ridiculous !!
                Coming to terms that one was lied to about a god, usually the lying and indoctrination was done by loved ones, yet coming to terms with that is very very personal and I for one would never try to “convert” anyone, its something one needs to realize on their own. Can you say the same for theists? Do they attempt to “convert” people, is their view pushed on a regular basis? Is there any evidence that an atheist killed for lack of belief??
                Now ask the same of theists and you’ll clearly see who has the higher moral ground here and we haven’t even gotten into priests raping children while the Vatican covers it up yet…

              3. @Franklin.

                Read my comment again. I never suggested that atheism was the motivation behind the atrocities. In fact I made a point out of illustrating that atheism cannot be held responsible for the actions carried out by a communistic regime.

              4. @ Jesper Both Pedersen
                your exact words:

                “In the eyes of many theists this illustrates that atheism is, at least partly, to blame for the atrocities carried out by the regime.

                Luckily there are no tenets in atheism and thus it is very hard to point to atheism as the motivation behind the killings.” Jesper Both Pedersen

                “very hard” ?? Its impossible for many reasons and clearly would be untrue. What is clear is you attempt to lay blame.

                Please be honest with at least yourself sir, if not the rest of us …

              5. @Franklin

                I think you’re misunderstanding the meaning of what I wrote.

                Clearly many theists believe that atheism had a part of the responsibility of the actions of the communist regime, but that does not make it true.

                Again, I specifically wrote that atheism cannot be blamed for the atrocities, so I’m a bit at loss as to why you think I claimed the opposite.

    2. All religions have blood on their hands and not just in centuries gone by, is not Dr. Tiller still dead? i

      And I think that’s the reason that western countries shy away from criticizing Islam; how can we criticize kooky religious beliefs when we have so many of our own?

      Only an atheist can, without hypocrisy, lay the blame where it belongs.

      1. Only an atheist can, without hypocrisy, lay the blame where it belongs.

        I disagree. As a theist how are you supposed to respond to this? With silence and shame?

        1. @ Jesper Both Pedersen

          We can only wish…. i think one should add a tee bit of inward reflection to that too, while thinking what kind of group you’ve thrown your lot in with.

          Really how much shit has to float to the surface of the pool before you get yourself and loved ones out of that tainted pool??

          1. Agreed, I’d just like to ensure that it is possible for theists to adress the truth without them being branded as hypocrits.

            1. What “truth” are you addressing?

              Any theist that claims the buybull is the “word of god” and still mows his lawn on sunday or eats shellfish or wears a poly/cotton blended shirt or pants is a hypocrite.

              On top of that any theist that claims to be intrested in the “truth” yet still beleives in a virgin birth or talking snakes and tells this to his/her kids as “truth” is in fact a hyprocrite. Not to even getting into the dead coming back to life…

              Again how tainted does the pool have to be before you get your loved ones out of it??

              1. The truth that Islam was indeed an influence on the perpetrators of these attacks.

                It should be perfectly possible to allow theists, no matter what religion they belong to, to criticise religious motivated violence without them being labelled as hypocritic.

                I think you’re setting up a scenario for them where they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

  2. We should stop building shopping malls? I wouldn’t have thought it possible that someone could say this with a straight face. Should we also stop building schools? Should we stop letting girls attend the schools that have already been built? The excuse making has gone beyond pathetic into a place where it is now simply unbelievable. Yes, it is the victims’ fault for building and using shopping malls. The terrorists really had no choice but to go on a killing spree.

    1. I think what he really meant is that we should start building bunkers instead of schools and malls because islamists are outta control! 😉

    2. Small point about the quote that shopping malls killing off shopping streets makes us unsafe. Didn’t the IRA place their car bombs in London’s shopping streets?

  3. Surely tarring a large group with the same brush is disingenuous?

    If you take the Abrahamic religions as a whole there are many subdivisions and sects. Some are peaceful and some are not. Some are extremists and others are moderate. Some fit peacefully into their local society others do not. Some stress the peaceful aspects of their religion whilst others insist on waging war.

    To over generalise is to be very wrong in certain circumstances.

    1. Where do you see an over generalisation?

      To deny that these attacks are related to Islam is to deny the simple truth of the matter.

    2. Unless your name is, “Socrates,” to observe that the recent massacres are motivated by Islam is not the same as claiming that all Muslims are violent.



    3. Your reading comprehension could use some work. Your response is beyond cliche. Did you even stop for a second in your headlong pursuit of championing accommodationism to actually carefully read the OP before responding?

    4. All keep the basic texts where genocide, murder, torture and misogyny is not only rampant but excused and encouraged.

      Until all the sects dump all these texts, they can be tarred with the same brush. Not pointing out the core problem would be disingenuous criticism.

  4. So, what’s the solution to rligious terrorism, if there is any? Is it the responsibility of any one nation to fight terrorism? No. Is it the responsibility of the UN to fight terrorism? Yes, who else has the broad authority? Will the UN, with the military backing of the wealthiest nations, take this responsibility? Unlikely, because not all nations are equally threatened. Is it likely that Muslim nations will take a strong stand against Muslim terrorists? Yes, but only if their own country and their wealth is threatened, but not on an international scale. The future looks bleak because peaceful Islamists are reluctant to take international action against their own religion. Religion seems to retain an immunity to the outrage of their actions. Hands off religion? Don’t ridicule religion, don’t criticize it? When any religion steps outside the boundaries of reason it must be isolated, attacked, and criticized. It must not enjoy special privilege and immunity. When will we learn?

    1. The answer to terrorism is to treat it as exactly what it is: just another crime. Makes no difference if a storefront is blown up because the owner is an un-scarved woman or if she didn’t pay protection insurance to the local mob boss. That the motive has more to do with money or ideology is irrelevant, except in terms of the investigation itself.

      The only difference is with state-sponsored terrorism, which is an act of war.



      1. I agree. And treating terrorism as common criminality may help to deglamorize it in the minds of the extremely foolish and misguided among us.

    2. On that note I’d like to wish you, Jerry and all my fellow readers a very happy International Blasphemy Rights Day.

  5. The sectarian equinox and its discontents.

    Of course, tribalism is perennial and the seeds of religion are resistant to the agricultural effort of cultivating a global civil society. How appropriate…

  6. “These appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion – they don’t.”

    Of course they do it in the name of a religion – albeit their interpretation of a particular religion. I’d go so far as to say that an organisation that emerged from the Union of Islamic Courts and who seek to impose Sharia Law have a better understanding of the Koran than David Cameron. And like all religious texts, the Koran is vague enough to allow widespread interpretation for pretty much any grotesque behaviour.

    “They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world.”

    I think what Cameron meant to say here was thta they do it in the name of religious terror, religious violence and religious extremism and their warped religious view of the world. Plenty of religions accomodate violence….as long as it is against the right people.

    “They don’t represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world.’”

    They might not represent ALL Muslims worldwide but they are representative of some British Muslims such as the Shoebomber and those behind the 7/7 attacks. Their behaviour is also consistent with the behaviour of the Saudi Arabians behind 9/11. I could go on, but you get the point. They also represent those Muslims who seek to emulate these atrocities.

    Some sickening details are reported in the Independent – including rape, beheadings and torture (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/kenya-shopping-mall-attack-nairobi-hostages-were-tortured-before-they-were-killed-says-police-doctor-8842509.html):

    “They removed balls, eyes, ears, nose. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside a child’s body. Actually, if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers.”

    1. “They removed balls, eyes, ears, nose. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside a child’s body. Actually, if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers.”

      Thomas Brown Hewitt has nothing to offer compared with the emotional chutzpah generated by self-righteous fanaticism.

        1. We know other religions do and did bad things. With Christianity in particular, the atrocities were just as bad as what we are seeing committed by Islamists today. The difference is that Christianity has been “domesticated” and its atrocities are fewer (I say fewer because there are the odd times that they act out violently & kill a doctor who performs abortions & they make pretty nasty threats regularly).

  7. quick side-point – please don’t confuse England with Britain. England is one of 3 countries in Great Britain, or 4 in the UK. There is no demonym for UK so “British” is fine generally to include everyone (unfortunately) governed by Cameron, including the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish.

  8. I am possibly going to be the dissenting voice here. The first responsibility of any democratic government is in the safety and security of its citizens. The calculation probably going through Cameron’s mind – and irrespective of politics, he is no fool (they don’t hand firsts out from Oxford to idiots) – is “what might happen if I said ‘yes – it IS Islam’s fault’? If I did, is there be a reasonable chance that a Westgate atrocity occur in the UK? And how many people might die because some lunatic fanatic decides to blow the arse of his fellow citizens?”

    No British PM, Labour, Tory, Monster Raving Loony, would want to be put in that position if at all avoidable.

    He probably knows, like we all do, the reality of the situation but unlike us, he knows that what he says could affect the lives of others.

    1. Wait… let me see if I have you right…

      The Islam-driven violence we’ve seen around the world happens because politicians too often point out that violent attacks are motivated by religion? Is THAT why the mall in Nairobi was attacked?

      1. No it is not. What I am saying is that words have consequences when spoken by PMs and Presidents which they don’t have – or at least not anywhere to the same extent – when spoken by you or I.

        1. Well, I’m glad that words spoken by presidents and Prime Ministers have effects that my words do not. It shows that their jobs are different than mine. But, of course, this is a trivially true statement.

          When PMs and Presidents refuse to acknowledge the religious motivations behind religiously motivated violence they do absolutely NOTHING to prevent the next attack. All they accomplish, at best, is to distract the public from facing up to reality. Religiously motivated violence is motivated by religion. Pretending this not to be true helps nobody.

        2. Then they should choose their words with far greater care. DC over-corrected; e.g., “They don’t represent the majority of Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world,” would have been closer to the truth.


    2. The first responsibility of any democratic government is in the safety and security of its citizens.

      NO! A thousand times, no!

      The United States, at least, was founded on the principle that the freedom and liberty of its citizens trumps all else, most especially including their safety and security.

      Why else do you think they pledged their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor to their independence?

      Only tyrants and despots love security. A free people accepts a certain measure of danger as the price of freedom.



      1. In Canada, our legal rights are stated as: right to life, liberty and security of the person so from a legal standpoint security of the person is listed last but it may not come last and these are only the legal rights, there are the others: fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, equality rights. No rights trump other rights as they are all guaranteed though there are limitations on those rights. I suspect this is similar to other Western democracies with some minor verbiage differences.

      2. For non-US readers, Ben is referring to those who signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain. They were indeed rather indifferent to security and more focused on freedom and independence.

        1. That’s a cheap shot – especially for American commenters on this web site. The US has, for example, more than its share of religious loons and you’ll find most Americans here who are fed up with them – most especially Ben Goren! The US tolerates a disgusting degree of economic inequality and concomitent corporate-dominated politics – again, you won’t find many of us, and certainly not Ben Goren, stinting in our criticism of that either. So – if you have a difference of opinion about what Ben said, by all means let us hear it – dismissing it as “US centric” is a lazy avoidance of the issue.

        2. How is it US Centric? It’s just using the US as an example of one democracy that refudiates your claim. Did you miss the “[t]he United States, at least..” part?

        3. I’m with Diane G, it was just an example. I gave a Canadian example as well if that makes you feel better. 😉

    3. I think it is quite possible for Cameron (or any other leader) to split the difference and say something more like this:

      Hundreds of millions of Muslims read the Koran and follow the Islamic faith without ever dreaming of occupying a shopping mall and murdering its occupants. The people who did this may claim to have been inspired by Islam, but most people who follow the Islamic faith don’t commit or approve of these henious crimes. I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of Muslims find these murderers’ interpretation of their faith to be monstrous and worthy of the our mutual disgust and condemnation.

      On the question of whether so-called “moderate” Muslims share some guilt for accomodating extremists’ views in less extreme but still repugnant behavior, Cameron can on this occasion remain quiet, but that’s about as far as his diplomacy should extend.

  9. I almost wonder if Britain has some sort of liberal guilt from the days of imperialism. Sort of like the guilt Canadians (and probably Americans) feel about the treatment of first nations people.

    My own anecdote is a former work peer once worked at another company and when they were interviewing an applicant, refused to shake her hand because she was a woman. At the time, the company did not know how to deal with this. I’d know exactly how to deal with it: we are having a value conflict. Your values are in conflict with this society’s social values and most likely the company’s values (which often reflect societal values to some extent). This is unacceptable and you will not be working here with that attitude. However, I’m bolder than many and the many fear of being labelled a racist for stating such things….I think they should worry about being labelled a misogynist or the tacit accepters of misogynist behaviours.

    1. Liberal guilt? Probably not.

      A sound knowledge that going through the front door with all guns blazing does not often work in the long term and often not in the short term – definitely yes.

      It’s about creating the opportunity to keep talking or start talking.

      Unless you are prepared to stay and occupy a country and suppress the local population indefinitely (like any despotic dictator, take your pick) then, ultimately, talking and mutual understanding is the only way to a peaceful co-existence.

      Gone are the days when Western armies can commit atrocities and get away with it. Such methods of suppression were common in the displacement of Native Americans, British Empire subjugates, and other European empires too. Today these methods hit the social media and are unacceptable. I am not saying these were the only methods used but methods and times were different then.

      We tend to find that our armies want to come home after their ventures. There are plenty of current examples as well as recent past. Afganistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Europe and beyond in WW2 etc. Whilst there will be all shades of the spectrum generally this leaves talking and co-operation remaining if anything is to be achieved to mutual gain. Many of these exits have been negotiated as a way of us westerners saving face with war aims not achieved, just lots of tragedy and cost. In many cases we make such a mess of things through a lack of understanding and over-reliance on weaponry that the situation is worse after we come out. Too many unintended consequences.

      Applying this to Somalia / Nairobi – well maybe the various armies do intend to occupy and wipe out the Al-Shabab fighters. Just like the western alliance created peace in Iraq and Afganistan and cleared Al-Queda ???????

      So the divide and conquer tactic would seem sensible. Change will take a long time and needs to come from within. To sector off the terrorists as just that means that the door is open to talk to their key funders and influencers and un-armed sympathisers.

      Britain does have some experience of seeking to resolve terrorism in it’s domestic realm. Pursuading one of her allies to stop funding it was a start. Creating the opportunity for the parties involved to talk was the crucial turning point. Of course the guns and bullets either strengthen or weaken the relative positions but ultimately it’s about keeping a door open to talk. Sooner or later that’s what it comes down to unless a state of permanent war is desired.

      btw, who are you suggesting is mysogynistic?

      1. I honestly am having a hard time figuring out how your reply addresses my question. Are you suggesting in your first question that my response implies that we should go “through the front door with all guns blazing”?

        To know who I’m suggesting is misogynistic, you need to re-read my post and look at the anecdote that it is referring to. Indeed, it appears that from your response you may want to re-read my entire post.

        1. In short, no liberal guilt, just a different approach. An approach leaving a door open for talk.

          I have to say I could not work out the relevance of your comments re mysogynism. Hence my question.

          1. A “different approach”, meaning… don’t say religiously-motivated violence is motivated by religion?

            That’s not just a “different approach”. It is a dishonest approach.

            1. I am suggesting a reason for the comments made. You can become obsessed with religious and behavioural definitions or you can seek to solve the problem.

              Since guns have consistently failed to resolve things perhaps a different approach could be considered?

              Simply blaming religion may be self-satisfying to some but seeking resolution requires more than an equal and opposite reaction. It’s about leaving room for future movement and dialogue.

              Would you have been happy with DC condemning the whole Islamic peoples and their religion?

              1. Where did anyone say we should ban religion? Wednesday asking for the real issue to be identified which it hasn’t been.

              2. Since guns have consistently failed to resolve things perhaps a different approach could be considered?

                What guns?

                What atheist is using guns or other forms of violence to stem the tide of religious insanity?

                Indeed, it’s quite the opposite. Religious fanatics destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001, and the biggest response from the rational community was for a few atheists to write books.

                For that, everybody who’s not a rationalist is calling the atheists the militant ones.

                I mean, like, what the fuck, dude?


              3. sadexcuse: You pose false choices.

                I would prefer that Prime Ministers spoke truthfully about religious violence.

                You do not need to condemn all believers for the actions of some of them. That, too, would be dishonest, at least in the direct sense of responsibility for actions. But to pretend that religious violence is not motivated by religion is dishonest and does exactly what you claim to want to avoid. It shuts down discussion about exactly how we should respond to religiously-inspired violence.

              4. No. It doesn’t shut it down. It alters it.

                and BTW as an aside show me a politician who does not lie, has never lied, will never lie.

                As I said, it’s a long game.

              5. “Show me a politician who does not lie….” as an answer to gbjames’s rational preference to require politicians to address root cause honestly is a rhetorical fallacy: the perfectionist fallacy and it doesn’t address the issue at all. Throwing up your hands and proclaiming that all politicians are liars only further shuts down any meaningful dialogue and any direct way to address the root cause problem: extreme Islamic beliefs. You cannot get to resolution if you identify the root cause I correctly. Accordingly, if we believe this politician, we ought to stop going to malls. That is not going to stop terrorism because it isn’t the right root cause to solution.

              6. I did in my comment about solution in root cause. Pick the wrong root cause (shopping malls) and you will not solve your problem (terrorized). You aren’t offending all of Islam to call out extremists. Indeed, it was the help of Muslims who reject this very thing that stopped the terrorist plot to put a bomb on a Canadian train earlier this year.

              7. Thanks for the clarification.

                Have you any siblings? You know how they annoy you sometimes and you wanna shout at them? And then you have a good rant and they can rant back. And you know what, they are bad and you know they are bad and you tell them so.

                And then your friend comes along and joins you in telling your sibling how bad they are. But, hey, that is your privilege. You are related. They can’t criticise your sibling as they are also criticising your family of which you are a member.

                Put simply I can criticise my brother all I like but if anybody else does, even if it’s true, I’ll defend my brother and join with him.

                It’s all in the genes, altruism, tribalism. What it’s not is pure. It’s just what happens.

                So maybe, just maybe another tack can be explored. After all, the direct approach is also being tried is it not?

              8. Well then you just need to be careful and make sure that you are not “attacking”. The idea here is to state honestly what the issue is. Some on this thread have had some good ways of doing so. When you do so, you enlist allies in the community as happened in Canada here.

              9. I suspect the real issue will turn out to be poverty and deprivation. It usually is. It makes an easy hunting ground for less scrupulous individuals to recruit disillusioned youth around any flag of convenience.

              10. I’m sure that has something to do with why people are recruited into terrorist organizations. You may find Tarek Fatah interesting. He is a very astute man and although I don’t agree with everything he says, I find there are a lot of things I do agree with.

              11. Not helpful for you. But then it was probably never for you.

                It’s ok. I think I understand your point. How can DC say it’s not religiously motivated? How can he not blame religion? How can he seek to separate terrorism from religion in this case?

                It doesn’t matter what you or I think. What matters is a path to resolution. Various punters have been suggesting pure honesty and openness and truth. Really? Show me a shining example.

                Now if you were talking about creationism I’d take a different far less accommodating view! Anti-btw

              12. No, sadexcuse, unhelpful period.

                Failure to speak honestly on subjects as critical as massacres at shopping malls helps absolutely nobody. Well, maybe it helps religious terrorists who can continue to work in communities where governments are run by delusion, make-believe, and pretend.

              13. What you are saying is that it does not meet your requirements, or indeed those of many others perhaps within this community.

                However, away from this blog are problems to be solved and imo you don’t do that by alienating a good section of humanity

              14. One more thing I’d like to note, sadexcuse,… It seems that, based on your “creationism” comment, that you find lying for Jesus more objectionable than lying for Muhammed.

              15. What I am saying, sadexcuse, is that it doesn’t meet the standards of honest discourse. Spin it how you wish, but dishonest is dishonest.

              16. Sadexcuse has set up the same strawman (strawmen) throughout this post: that we’re asking for a violent answer. He/she then argues against this strawman no matter how many times we say we just want honest discourse.

              17. I am enjoying the discussion. I just wish I had more time..

                Briefly, I don’t see you as advocating aggression. I think I understand that you wanted DC to say that recent violence is caused by religion and is religiously motivated.

                It is great to have the ability on this blog to say what we like, within reason. However in the real world there are consequences. I am seeking to suggest that real world politics is different to philosophical ideals.

                In the UK (yes, that’s my tribe and you are attacking it, by extension) we are not as direct as other cultures. We prefer not to offend. Said other cultures will view this as weakness. This would be to misunderstand the mindset. It would be a mistake.

                I don’t seek to impose my opinion upon you. I seek to understand yours and others. My own opinion will be formed once I feel I have enough information.

              18. “I think I understand that you wanted DC to say that recent violence is caused by religion and is religiously motivated.”

                Well, it’d be a start if DC didn’t explicitly deny that.


          2. There we would have to disagree then. Denying that the attack on the shopping mall is the result of extreme Islamic beliefs is not keeping the door of communication open but slamming it on any meaningful discussions.

            My anecdote was related to what I proposed in the first paragraph where I ask about guilt. In the second paragraph I give an example of a non Western opinion that women should not be treated equally and the company nor knowing what to do. They he’s it because they don’t want to appear racist toward another culture but they do so by potentially accepting this other culture’s misogynistic view and in this way take on the misogyny or tacitly accept it.

            1. To the first paragraph – it’s a long game. If you cannot see it then so be it. People from apparently similar cultures actually think very differently.

              I’ll pass on the second paragraph. I have travelled internationally and there is no simple answer although I think I understand your broad point.

      2. “Gone are the days when Western armies can commit atrocities and get away with it.”

        Unless they’re in helicopters, apparently. Just sayin’

    2. Couldn’t agree more with your approach, Diana. Brilliant framing! Such a shame that in America the “religious-freedom” crowd trounces the anti-misogynist voices.

  10. Rather than arguing whether the perpetrators of these massacres were religious or not perhaps we should consider the consequences
    of adopting absolutist philosophies weighted with historical\inevitability whether they are religious or political. In the perhaps apologetic poem of Bertold Brecht, a communist, there is the line:

    “Alas, we who wished to lay the foundations of kindness Could not ourselves be kind. “

    I wonder what, if any, apologetic exists in the poetry of Pablo Neruda, also a communist, which I much admire (with some discomfort,
    I admit) .

    Murderous, religion based action originates from absolutist contentions that the deity is
    just, and its purpose will be fulfilled in the future, and non-believers
    are basically evil. That is fuel for murderous fanatics. Similarly, communist
    philosophy fed their addiction to brutal dictatorship.

  11. Since Friday I’ve listened to 3 hours of interviews with attendees at last week’s IPCC conference. Given present resource stress pressure outcomes resulting from overpopulation exacerbated by existing climate change impact (added to always-present scarcity conditions resulting from laissez-faire economic exploitation), I expect religious fanaticism activities to increase at least in direct proportion to diminishing access to water, food, etc.

    Simultaneously, I expect corporate master’s will direct their governmental employees to take whatever measures are necessary to protect assets and their personal economic status quo, regardless of consequences to anyone or anything else. I expect these elite’s will successfully purchase their desires. I’ll be astonished if the sort of liberty, equality, and justice conceived during the Enlightenment exists in a few decades for anybody but the neo-feudalist capitalist class.

    1. Hey Richard

      I had to read this a few times to get it’s sense. I think I may have it and, if I understand it correctly, you are saying that if you / we / their neighbours / western lifestyles create enough social tension between the haves and have nots then this kind of religious fundamentalism will continue.

      Is this the gist of what you are saying?

      1. Not quite what I’m saying, sadex; I wasn’t too clear.

        Imminent conditions of resource scarcity will result in migration. Populations will encroach on areas presently occupied. There will be conflict as a result.

        Religious animosity is likely to increase in both frequency, and in incidents involving greater numbers of combatants, including escalations to regional wars.

        The causes of coming conflict, imho, will on the surface appear to be rooted in religious differences, and there is truth to this. However, I think that economic disparity is the numero uno underlying reason humans engage in conflict with each other. It also seems to be perhaps the major contributor to zealous belief tendencies.

        There would be less conflict over resources — and everything else — if sensible allocation methods are developed and employed to replace traditional vulture* capitalism, while also displacing those who maintain that unsustainable primitive relic of early human civilization. The ASPD types will have to seek other employment, then, and that may make them easier to spot, track, and deal with as a result.

        *Check that: I do not wish to insult vultures, useful creatures which serve in a useful, critically necessary capacity.

        Blind faith needs to go the way of predatory capitalism, as well, but that may not happen any time soon. Truth, I don’t know which is the more difficult prospect: educating humans to abandon ridiculous faith belief, or convincing the vast majority to assert themselves in their own best economic self-interest.

        1. I certainly agree that if you create disparity then the result can be tension. I also agree that the oppressed / deprived will rally around a common cause to fend off or attack a common enemy. This is not seeking to justify but rather assign a possible reason to certain situations.

          I also agree with your point about corporations damaging existing situations and creating new ones. We have seen how unfettered capitalism damaged many in the past 5 years in particular.

          I guess the purpose of this blog thread is to examine the meaning of David Cameron’s words. I do think there is a self serving nature to many comments here and perhaps an unwillingness to take his words in a wider context. He has to operate in the real world and away from the idealism that can be expressed, and valuably so , on this bloq.

  12. David Cameron at a nightclub:

    Singer: “This next tune is dedicated to one of my heroes, Frank Sinatra — ”

    Cameron: “No it isn’t! Your voice doesn’t sound anything like Sinatra’s!”

    Singer: “WTF?”

    Cameron’s remarks about Islamism are just about that silly. If an Islamist extremist says he’s doing something in the name of Islam, then he is, by definition. You can argue about whether his actions are representative of Islam, but you don’t get to argue about whether he’s doing it in the name of Islam. The fact that he said so makes it true.

    1. Thank you Gregory – a clear explanation of the silliness of David Cameron’s words.
      One might argue that in the case of a person suffering from real mental illness (schizophrenia would be the obvious one) who says “G-d made me do it” (pick your G-d as you may) the person’s actions might not be attributed to their religion; but short of that, if someone says “I did it for the glory of my G-d”, they should be taken at their word.

        1. The relevance is that social change never comes through appeasement. Being nice means not rocking the boat. Well, this is one boat that need to be rocked.



  13. Desired social outcomes don’t come by overt aggression either.

    It’s normally a carrot and stick combination.

    Interested in your use of the word appeasement. I did not understand that in Cameron’s words.

  14. One thing that has been giving me a slow burn over the past week is the position of the BBC in this issue of terrorism, its sources in religious extreme, and in particular the roots of violence arising from the Muslim religion. To most Americans, the BBC appears to be a matchless example of high standards of professional journalism. It is not. It certainly aspires to be, but in practise the presentation of news is highly influenced by the intellectual attitudes and fashion of its staff, and that fashion is a strongly left-wing. There’s nothing wrong with that, the New York Times has such a slant and yet produces outstanding journalistic coverage of news stories, factual, comprehensive and well presented…. journalism styled to allow it’s readers to make informed decisions of their own. But the BBC is different, in that at all levels it sees itself as more than just a news source – it sees itself a primary moulder of public opinion, with a unique position and duty to make the public have the “correct attitudes” (the correct attitudes, of course, being the particular zeitgeist which prevails within the political slant in the BBC). The political position of the BBC is far removed from that of Fox News, but the action of trying to manipulate the attitudes of its viewers is quite the same.
    To get to my point – the BBC always describes any atrocity spawned by Islamist religious fanaticism as the action of Islamic MILITANTS not Islamic terrorists. The word militant is engraved in the BBC as the “approved” expression- you will find no other. (If a BBC journalist produced any other wording it is edited to “correct’ the mistake before airing takes place) Terrorism is not allowed to be connected with religion. There are no Islamic terrorists. What took place in Nairobi was not terrorism, it was militant action-the action, of course, of a few “militants”. Religious belief cannot be the source of terrorism in the view of the BBC.. this is not to be allowed to enter the public mind.
    Words count. For a terrorist to see himself described as a “militant” enhances his stature in his own mind – he is a soldier in a cause. He is doing his honourable soldierly duty.
    And why should this matter to us? Well, most of us here at WEIT are dubbed “militants” – Jerry is, Dawkins is, I guess I am. But we ARE NOT TERRORISTS. If what happened at Nairobi was not terrorism, nothing is. And religion was the root cause.

    1. Interesting observations. How does the Beeb use the word ‘terrorist’ then?*
      I’d be happy to see it eschewed altogether by a news organisation, if they’d stick to more precise and less emotive terms and do so without gross bias.

      *(I don’t watch much TV news any more, having found Australia’s ABC and SBS increasingly shallow and partial, and commercial channels merely… commercial)

  15. Cameron ignores the Elephant in the room. There are so many Muslims in parliament telling him that they are no problem. Also calling anyone who notices the bad acts a racist, despite Islam being worldwide. Or xenophobic, when Britain is completley multicultural and has been for centuries. We are accepting of anyone who integrates into our society. Unfortunately Muslims are turning all our major cities into ghettoes. Saudi oil money finances mosques in most towns, readying for the final caliphate…
    Where does it all end?

  16. Its time we stop using a term that elevates “them” like a status symbol. Giving them the moniker “terrorist” is the same as calling them a “god” in the circles they run in.
    Fact is they are nothing but cowardly murders of innocent women, children and elderly!! In their world calling them a “terrorist” is a badge of honor given to a “hero”.
    So please start to think about that when you next describe one or a group of these cowards, please ….

    ps.. i do know that that term is also used by many of our own elected officials to strike fear in us , so they can get us to degrade our freedoms…. another good reason not to use it…. they both are simply cowardly criminals, nothing more.

    1. Well, that’s simple! Just define it away! There is no such thing as terrorism, just cowardly murderers!

      Sadly, that won’t do. Some violence is done for the purpose of creating terror in populations. The people who do that are terrorists.

      1. please, what cowardly murderer doesn’t strike fear into their victims and those that see it over and over again on the 24/7 news cycle?? if the talking heads stopped elevating them to the status level they want its bound to have an effect…. what would it hurt i ask??

        1. What it hurts is our ability to recognize distinctions between different types of behavior. To equate flying planes into buildings and the Nairobi mall attack to gas station robberies that end in murder is absurd.

          1. to the narrow minded perhaps it is… its about elevating a cowardly murderer to the status they yearn for… i for one will not do that, but if you feel the need to, go right ahead, thats your right.

              1. Have to say I agree with freethinkinfranklin here. “Terrorist” does have a certain éclat for some demographics. I don’t think we need to do away with the term, but we do need to increase our use of other descriptors such as murderers, criminals, etc. “Scum of the earth” maybe.

              2. But calling someone “Scum of the earth” is so disrespectful.

                The notion that these events happen because we call them “terrorist” is just a bit absurd. Everyone knows they aren’t done by terrorists!

                These are the acts of martyrs!

  17. Sorry to bang on about this but I just wanted to provide WEIT readers with the EXACT wording of the BBC editorial directive that prohibits the use of the term “terrorist” in describing the Nairobi massacre. It seems the BBC does not want to be seen to be making a “value judgement” on the merits or demerits of such atrocities (if other WEIT readers will please forgive me to use this sort of “emotive” word myself) .

    The exact BBC directive asks:

    “Have we assessed the merits of the different perpetrators’ cause, the acts of the different Governments against the perpetrators, or even the value of civilian lives further from home? We must be careful not to give the impression that we have come to some kind of implicit -and unwarranted – value judgement.

    Some will argue that certain events are so evidently acts of terror (and, therefore, perpetrated by “terrorists”) that those descriptions are reasonable, and non-judgemental. However, the language we choose to use in reporting one incident cannot be considered in isolation from our reporting of other stories. So to use the word in incidents which we may consider obvious creates difficulties for less clear-cut incidents.”

    There you have it – the same relativistic nonsensical twaddle that dogs Western left-wing attitudes. Well, unless we in the West have any conviction at all about the rightness of our moral stance, the values we have learned in our history, our philosophy, in the teachings of our Enlightenment … unless we have done with this nonsensical relativism and are willing to truthfully call a spade a spade, we are doomed. Religious fanatics (and terrorists for that matter) have no such qualms… they know they are right and act exactly accordingly. They see in our relativistic prattle the weakness of our ideas (and why shouldn’t they).

    Doesn’t this all remind you of that line from Yeats where “…the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”

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