My Column – What’s Wrong With Us?

In the wake of the Leytonstone tube stabbings, I find myself increasingly annoyed by the reaction to this appalling tragedy. I’m annoyed with the internet (not all of it). I’m annoyed with the political Left (not everyone). And I’m annoyed with the Right (again, not everyone).

I’m annoyed at the internet because of the hashtag #youaintnomuslimbruv. A crazed attacker starts violently stabbing innocent people at a tube station. A hero bravely steps up, risking his life to prevent further bloodshed and save lives. Meanwhile, bystanders film the whole thing on their mobile phones. Realising that the attacker claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, one bystander was heard shouting the words ‘you ain’t no Muslim bruv’.

Imagine that you were from another planet, looking down upon us here on planet earth. You see the internet erupt in a frenzy, but praising who? Praising the man who risked his life to save others? No. Repeating the words ‘you ain’t no Muslim bruv’ over and over. We’ve spectacularly failed to honour the person we should be honouring, and isn’t this just the kind of social media response we see every day in our Twitter and Facebook feeds? A hashtag is used to convey a particular message. Sometimes laudable, sometimes not. Then the internet fawns over it, swooning and patting itself on the back for spreading this message. Whether the message is right or wrong, very often the reaction doesn’t reflect the reality of life. You might expect a Prime Minister to be Prime Ministerial, but instead Cameron jumped upon the bandwagon opportunity and quoted the hashtag.

I’m annoyed at the Left because, no matter what, little is said or done by them to challenge those who close their eyes and ears to what is happening all around them. They are so desperate to challenge racism – real or imaginary, genuine or ethereal – that they fail to comprehend the bigger picture. I don’t care what we call the terror group that is currently butchering innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria. Whether it’s ISIS or ISIL, Islamic State or Daesh, we could call it Fred (apologies to anyone named Fred) for all I care. To paraphrase Shakespeare, what’s in a name? A dung heap by any other name would smell as foul. We’ll get to my beef with the Right in a minute, but first the Left have to accept that there is a problem.

That terrorist organisation controls a massive land mass. It is sending activists into many countries across the world (and isn’t it about time that we started to recognise the terror attacks in non-Western countries every bit as much as we recognise those in Paris?) to bomb, injure, maim and kill innocent people. It is killing people for holding different religious beliefs. It is killing people for being gay. It is killing people for the most trivial of reasons. Memo to the Left: this is important. Isn’t mass murder something even more worthy of our consideration than the mere possibility that someone might say something which could – if you look at it in a negative light for long enough – be considered racist? Shouldn’t you rather concentrate your efforts on the root cause of this problem; the ideology of ISIS and the spread of the extremist interpretation of Islam? Extremist ideologies are being propagated in mosques in many countries across the world. It might sound great to say that they are ‘not Muslim’ but seriously, does anyone think they care whether non-Muslims consider them to be Muslim or not? Those pushing this ‘not Muslim’ idea are stuck in a Western-centric bubble, assuming that this bland comment will have an impact. It will not.

The Right don’t help much either. Essentially, they give the Left an excuse to do everything I’ve just mentioned – to focus their efforts away from the real issue. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people on social media fail to grasp the basic fact that Muslims aren’t all the same. Christians aren’t all the same either. There are C of E, Catholics, Pentecostals and Evangelicals. There’s AOG and Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian. All believe different things. A fundamentalist evangelical Christian is likely to believe things that are much different to a Quaker. But I don’t use the term in a disparaging way; a fundamentalist Bible-believing Christian will REALLY love their neighbour as they love themselves.

I won’t go into detail of the Qur’an here, but there exists a possibility for a fundamentalist interpretation which leads to extremist ideology (essentially, that later verses override earlier ones, that warlike verses are seen as permanent rather than time-specific, and a certain reading of the Hadith). Many elements of the Right fail to consider that this extremist interpretation is not the only one.

To me, being Right-wing should be about understanding and respecting other people’s cultures. If you expect those who come to the UK to adapt to our culture, language and lifestyle, then you should pay people in other countries precisely the same respect. That’s why I try to learn the language whilst out in France and Belgium, for example.

If you don’t bother to take a moment to understand that different Muslims believe different things, it leads to intolerance. Perhaps spending a few minutes, every now and again, to talk to Muslims about what they believe might lead to being better informed. And just maybe, it would deprive the Left of their ability to spectacularly miss the point. There are Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. There are the Ahmadiyya. Within the main Sunni beliefs there are various different schools of thought [jurisprudence]. There’s complex interactions, for example, with Sufi beliefs which can be part of either Sunni or Shia. Even the strict Wahhabist interpretation of Islam, from which ISIS comes, doesn’t automatically lead to ISIS. However, there are legitimate concerns over the kind of influence exerted by Saudi Arabia in spreading Wahhabism. In Saudi Arabia (however appalling their human rights record), the monarchy acts as a counterweight to the religious doctrines. But once certain doctrines are exported to a country without an Islamic monarchy, various views spread. Those in the West who, maliciously or through ignorance, seek to blame all Muslims do nothing to help the situation.

What’s wrong with us? Let’s get a grip, stop appeasing terrorists, stop missing the point and misleading, stop blaming all Muslims for the actions of a tiny minority and actually develop a plan to deal with the ISIS threat to our way of life.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website. You can view it here.

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