A GROUP of Islamist terrorists armed with guns and grenades head into a shopping mall in Kenya. They separate out the Muslims from the non-Muslims, let the former go free and massacre the latter.
And what does British Prime Minister, David Cameron, say?
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.
Douglas Murray, writing in the Spectator, commented:
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.
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.
Also in the Spectator, Melanie McDonagh asked:
Do you know the name of Muhammed’s mother? No, me neither. I can manage the names of two of his wives and his Christian concubine, plus his daughter, but not his mother. The matter was, however, of more than academic interest when gunmen took over the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi. According to witnesses, members of the public were lined up and then gunned down if they failed to name the mother of the founder of Islam or recite verses from the Koran. Those lucky enough to be able to speak Arabic — possibly passages from the Koran — were let go. The rest were fair game.
Now, whatever else you can say about these individuals, I think we can agree, can’t we, that religion looms quite large in their world view? I mean, if knowledge of the Koran or Muhammed’s immediate family is a reason for them to shoot people or not, then I think we can assume that the Islamic faith is, rightly or wrongly, a factor in what they’re doing.
Referring to Cameron’s words “They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world”, McDonagh said:
But that’s precisely what these men didn’t do. They didn’t declare that their motivation was terror, violence or unspecified extremism. What they did mention, besides references to mujahedeen and kaffirs, if the Twitter messages allegedly from them are authentic, is the presence of Kenyan soldiers in Somalia.
‘The attack at Westgate mall,’ went one of them, ‘is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders.’ So, it may well be that they are Somali patriots resentful at the presence of African Union troops in their country, but this is not to exclude religion from the picture, since they themselves go out of their way to make a point of it.
And while it is undoubtedly true that their actions were, are, abhorrent to the great majority of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere — certainly all the ones I know — it’s really not the case, is it, that they don’t represent Islam or Muslims anywhere in the world. They represent, to their own satisfaction, a strand of Islam which is very unwelcome to many moderate Muslims but which does have a basis in the religion and their understanding of it.
If the Prime Minister had merely observed that the actions of the Kenyan jihadists are abhorrent to the great majority of Muslims and certainly the great majority of British Muslims, no one would have disagreed. Indeed, we can take it as read, I think, that his remarks were motivated by an honourable wish to disassociate moderate Muslims from the actions of men whose actions revolt them, and to discourage those who might wish to take out their indignation about the Kenyan atrocities on some unfortunate newsagent in Hackney.
But to say that al Shabaab and its representatives in the Westgate shopping mall don’t represent Muslims or Islam anywhere in the world is simply untrue and if we try to deal with jihadis on the basis that they are unspecified extremists rather than people with a very pronounced religious ideology, it’s not really adding to our understanding of what has happened or our ability to prevent something similar happening here.