Saturday, June 30, 2007

Terrorism and Religion

The reports of car bombs left outside a nightclub
in central London's Haymarket yesterday, provide much food
for thought and reflection.

A key issue is surely the value of human life? The IRA
bombers sought to make political use of the Catholic religion and many
of their supporters were at least ostensibly, Catholics. The same
applies to their protagonist Protesant Unionists.

During the
earlier part of their campaigns to secure change through violence,
or likewise to maintain the status quo by killing,
bombs were often detonated without warning, causing much human death
injury and misery. Pressure, not least from men and women in the
pews, led to their tactics altering. Officially recognised coded
warnings of impending bomb explosions were given so that people could be
cleared from the affected areas.

This changed tactic still enabled the IRA
to further their campaign by attacking economic targets.
The example I recall was of their huge bomb in London's Canary
Wharf business centre. The thousands who worked there had time
to escape; much damage was caused by the bomb but with
only one human casualty, an Evening News vendor I think.

Such pressures also affected their Protestant Unionist protagonists. Having
recognised the value of human life, which of course
is fundamental to Christianity, Catholic and Protestant alike,
logical steps inevitably followed,
which appear to be leading to all sides being assimilated
into the democratic political processes. That must be
better than the previous carnage their activities wreaked
under the flag of religion which they had all wrongfully
purloined from the Church.

The unsuccessful perpetrators of last night have yet to be identified
but if they claim to represent any religion or ideology,
in my view the ordinary people who also adhere to that religion or
ideology, now need to stand up and be counted like the peace people
of Northern Ireland did in the late C20.
Those three women's protests which began in about 1976, about the
carnage being caused in the name of their God or of their
Country, started the road back to sanity there.

Policitians need to take courageous steps too. While it lasted,
Internment in Northern
Ireland stymied the Peace People, a point which those responsible
for maintaining the Guantanamo Bay prison would do well to
heed today.

Let ordinary co-religionists of yesterday's attempted bombers,
find the courage and spirit to become today's peace people of C21.
A religion which really recognises the value of
human life, must surely eventually catalyse its own
peace people to emerge and affect those
whose actions deny that value, whatever holy sounding
words they may utter or beliefs they claim to hold?


  1. The following appeared in teh Observer newspaper the day after my blog post on the same topic:

    "...I believe that the issue of terrorism can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism. (The Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from this state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.) However, demystification will not be achieved if the only bridges of engagement that are formed are between the BJN and the security services.

    If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I'd like to term the Land of Co-existence. And when this new theological territory is opened up, Western Muslims will be able to liberate themselves from defunct models of the world, rewrite the rules of interaction and perhaps we will discover that the concept of killing in the name of Islam is no more than an anachronism"

  2. Excellent article in today's FT headed:


    How to defeat the jihadis in something other than a war

    The following extracts give the flavour:


    Whatever the motives of the new British government – and I suspect they are mixed – there is much to be said for an effort to reframe the struggle with extreme Islamism. The use of force can be only one dimension. Hearts and minds are critical in the effort to counter terrorism. Language and tone matter.Above all the west needs to differentiate between al-Qaeda’s brand of irreconcilable extremism and the many other grievances, conflicts and stand-offs that fuel violence in the Muslim worlds. Some at least of these are susceptible to political solutions if they can be disentangled from violent Islamism...Few things give more succour to the terrorists than an apparent acceptance by some in the west – in non-Muslim and Muslim communities alike – that their violence is somehow a response to western intervention. That, if only foreign troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq and the Palestinians given their own state, the Islamist fundamentalists would lay down their car bombs.
    Even the most cursory examination of views that motivate the Islamist extremists says otherwise. Behind the demand for a Muslim caliphate lies a brutal totalitarian ideology that is violent, deeply anti-Semitic and casts all but fellow fanatics as worthless kafirs. This is a movement that will draw any grievance, valid or otherwise, to its cause but will not be satisfied by anything short of its medievalist vision of an intolerant society based on their corruption of Islam. Whatever we call it – war, struggle, confrontation – and however we label them – criminals, Islamist terrorists, jihadis – we need to be absolutely sure of one thing. They must be defeated.


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