During Theresa May’s statement in the House of Commons on the recent Westminster attack, she said the words, “It is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism. It is a perversion of a great faith.” Clearly Khalid Masood’s actions can’t be allowed to reflect the views of moderate believers; however, we mustn’t shy away from the fact that when he was converted to a perversion of Islam in prison, it was nevertheless what he perceived to be a version of Islam. There is a growing uneasiness in this country at our unwillingness to call out things that are done worldwide in the name of Allah and the Koran. The fact of the matter is, this wouldn’t be the case if it were another religion. Finding fault in Islam, as people love to in Christianity and Judaism, shouldn’t be seen as an attack on all Muslims.
Late last year, 23 Coptic Christians were killed in a church bombing in Cairo by Islamist terrorists. Two Islamist terrorists stormed a five-hundred-year-old church in northern France and held the entire congregation hostage. They then slit the throat of the 85-year-old priest as he screamed “go away, Satan!” and proceeded to demand another 84-year-old parishioner take photos of the dead man. Coptic Christians throughout the Islamic world, but especially in Egypt, have been subject to years of prejudice, mass killings and abuse. Anti-Christian bigotry is just one example of a blasé attitude to human rights across much of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Public debate on the issue is such a taboo that attacks on our way of life can’t even be called out for what they are. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a radical Islamist decided to hold a Kosher supermarket and all the people inside hostage. Obama referred to this as “when a bunch of violent, vicious zealots … randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli.” Clearly, a radical Islamist did not shoot lots of Jewish people randomly. The situation was being handled so poorly by the French security services (they were severely stretched by the fact that a siege was going on at the same time with the Hebdo killers) that the killer was actually in contact with the media. He said he chose the deli “because it was Jewish.”
Exactly the same thing happened after Orlando. Owen Jones (a Guardian columnist who is normally pro the politically correct “liberal” agenda that decides what you can and can’t say) stormed off Sky News’ show because he was so irritated by the fact that the anchor wouldn’t describe the attack as a homophobic one. This inability to deal in facts is stifling real debate and progress. Clearly the Paris attack was anti-Semitic and clearly, the Orlando attack was homophobic. Acknowledging these two things is taking the first few baby steps towards the realisation of the extent of the threat of ‘radical Islamism’ to western civilisation.
In Saudi Arabia, stealing is punishable by amputation. Adultery leads to death by stoning, and homosexual acts, blasphemy and treason are all capital offences. The most common form of the death penalty is beheading. It would seem, therefore, that as long as you’re not beheading someone in an orange jumpsuit and broadcasting it to the world, it’s morally acceptable. You can even be a close ally of Great Britain. The Iraqis are fonder of hanging – a fate that befalls anyone convicted of treason. In Iran, women are forced to wear the hijab in public and can be stoned if they commit adultery. Unsurprisingly, the country in the Middle East where it’s the safest to be gay is the only non-Muslim state: Israel. Recently in Dubai, a favourite of the well-travelled London-born Durhamer, a South African man and his fiancée were arrested for having sex outside of marriage.
I’ve always had a fascination for Islamic parts of the world. Some of the world’s great wonders are in Islamic countries: the pyramids in Cairo, the Alhambra in Spain and the Blue Mosque in Turkey. I also have a slightly irrational love for Pakistan and its culture (particularly the history of its test cricket side). This isn’t about racism. This is about acknowledging the reality of the situation in many Islamic countries.
If a country stones women who are raped, throws gay people off cranes and makes it illegal to be anything other than Muslim, then its most avid supporters hold views that are incompatible with British values. Mainstream political and media discourse is increasingly at pains to deny this. There is an intellectual tradition in this country of believing that the world’s problems stem from the actions of western civilisation. Is the West really responsible for this?
Photograph: Pierre-Selim via Flickr