A chance email late on Friday evening alerted me and on TV I watched the unfolding horror in Paris. All governments have feared this type of terrorism since the Mumbai attack of 2008, but it was still utterly shocking to see it happening on the streets of a city that I know and love.
The following morning I drafted the statement issued by the Conservative Muslim Forum at this link closing with the need for everyone to assist the security services and to “assist the Government in rooting out the pernicious ideology that underlies such terrorism.”
Other condemnations from Muslims
There have of course been many condemnations of the Paris attacks from Muslim organisations and from individual Muslims. However, some of the statements I have read left me feeling frustrated – because they look so incomplete.
Condemning terrorism is easy and no Muslim organisation need fear any criticism from Muslims (or others) if all it does is to condemn terrorist acts. However, condemning terrorism is not enough if you are unwilling to acknowledge its causes. If you deny its causes, you cannot put forward a meaningful vision of the way forward.
The terrorists’ religious beliefs matter fundamentally
I am utterly fed up with hearing people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, argue that the religious views of the terrorists are irrelevant. Just one example: Dr Giles Fraser here.
Those who argue this appear unable to understand that more than one condition may be required for people to kill in the way they did on Friday evening.
- They need to have a cause to fight for. In this case in broad terms these terrorists wished to advance the cause of ISIS. Going into a combat mission where you are very likely to get killed is something that many people have done over the decades; I am old enough to remember the Vietcong Tet Offensive of 1968.
- They need to believe that what they are doing is right. If they believe in the existence of God, it is absolutely essential for them to believe that God will regard what they are about to do as virtuous and not as sinful. While it is easy to understand people being willing to risk getting killed for a cause, I do not believe any of the Paris gunmen would have consciously chosen to be sentenced to Hell for all eternity. It is obvious that they were hoping for admission to Heaven.
This was explained in more detail in my Conservative Home piece “Terrorism and denialism” at this link.
The Muslim leadership that is needed
I have a simple challenge for Muslim organisations and Muslim leaders.
What are you doing to:
- Encourage British Muslims to join the police, the armed forces and the security services?
- Teach young Muslims to treat Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, atheists etc as full equal members of society entitled to exactly the same level of respect as given to fellow Muslims?
- Teach young Muslims that religious practice is a matter between the individual and God, and no Muslim has the right to denounce another for being “insufficiently Muslim” or worse still to contend that someone who self-describes as a Muslim is outside the religion? (This is known as “takfir”, is widely practised by ISIL and provides their religious justification for killing other people who self-describe as Muslims.)
- Respect people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender as full equal members of society?
- Encourage British Muslims to join non-religiously based civil society organisations such as mainstream political parties, The National Trust, The Women’s Institute etc. so that they associate regularly with people of all religious backgrounds rather than spending all their free time with other Muslims?
- Teach young Muslims that Britain is a wonderful country in which to be a Muslim and that Britain is not at war with Islam or with Muslims?
If you are not actively doing this, in my opinion you are part of the problem. Passive indifference to the 95 per cent of our wider society which is non-Muslim is not enough.
We all have to promote cohesion and to immunise our young people against being radicalised. Sadly too many parents only face up to the reality of radicalisation after their son or daughter has gone off to Syria to join ISIS. Even worse are the small number of those parents who actually regard such sons or daughters as heroes and not as children who have been duped into a death cult.