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A melancholy part of modern life

Mark Urban at the BBC explains the ways the Woolwich murder is different from other such murders – it’s not networked, it’s just a couple of guys with everyday tools, so it’s not the kind of thing that intelligence services can prevent; the guys look ordinary; there’s no way to prevent their “message” from spreading; responses have changed…

Governments have become better at calibrating their response to these acts and so has the public. After Boston and Woolwich, for example, they were careful not to leap to conclusions or to issue responses of the “War on Terror” kind that would have inflamed communal tensions.

There are still some who are defaulting to stereotypical responses to such situations, and certainly in Boston after the marathon bombings, I witnessed a small quantum of media-fanned hysteria, but in general people have become better at accepting that such incidents are a melancholy part of modern life and should not alter their view of other cultures or religions.

Excuse me. That last item is one thought too many. It’s pretty typical BBC bullshittery in its careful vagueness, but given our knowledge of typical BBC bullshittery, we can be pretty sure we know what it means: don’t think of the Woolwich attack as anything to do with Islam. If that is the thought, it’s one thought too many. It is anythiing to do with Islam. If it were Catholic fanatics doing this kind of thing, that would be anything to do with Catholicism. When anti-abortion fanatics murder doctors who provide abortions, that is anything to do with anti-abortion fanaticism, and sometimes with a particular religion that underpins or prompts the anti-abortion fanaticism. This incident on a London street is anything to do with Islam. The murderers said so themselves. Yes, other people follow a better Islam (one that ignores much of its own “scripture”); yes it’s theoretically possible to have a better Islam; but no, it is not the case that this murder has no implications for how people should view Islam.

Comments

  1. Stacy says

    Very poorly phrased. Maybe they were trying to say “… such incidents are a melancholy part of modern life and should not cause hatred or stereotyping of people of other cultures or religions.” That would be a good thing, and a good thing to say.

  2. Minot says

    I think, for once, the BBC have this right. Fanatics do murderous things in the name of all sorts of things. Stalin murdered thousands in the name of democracy and persecuted others (including murdering some) in the name off atheism, but that tells us nothing about either democracy or atheism. If anti-abortion fanatics launched a campaign in the name of feminism (and that is far from implausible) it should not colour how we view feminism etc etc.

  3. throwaway, extra beefy super queasy says

    On the BookFace ‘Atheists’ group there is talk among the more vocal xenophobes and bigots that all Muslims be interned because we did the same thing to the Germans in WWII and that worked out so well. If you dare to speak up against that stupidity then you’re told that this murder is “different” than all the others even though it’s not a statistical signifier of a trend and such talk is unjustified and would be unjust in action as well.

    I’ll never understand why some people, especially atheists, who I presume are libertarian as well without a sense of irony, leap to the Orwellian tactic of confining those who commit thought-crime, or are on the verge of committing it due to their religious leanings.

  4. Gretchen Robinson says

    a small percentage of atheists are libertarian (shown by surveys).
    A better example of internment would the internment of the Japanese during WWII
    which everyone agrees now was wrong. That meant that there was no one to pick
    the fruit in the northwest so the farmer and government went to Mexico and recruited
    Hispanics.

    Note too that the US government didn’t intern Germans and German Americans, a number of them were against the War. There were just too many of them. Same thing for the Italians.

    I may not like or approve of the tenets of Islam, nor their mistreatment of women, etc. etc. but I don’t want to see a rise in hateful rhetoric. Check out Eboo Patel’s Sacred Ground: Pluralism, prejudice, and the Promise of America.

  5. shatterface says

    Amazing: two men hack another man to death and publicly declare their religious motivation and it’s ‘Don’t listen to the men with blood on their hands – here’s some libertarian atheists I’ve just plucked out of my arse and they’re even worse!’

  6. says

    Fanatics do murderous things in the name of all sorts of things.

    Well, many sorts of things, but not all. Not in the name of human rights, for instance.

    Some ideologies have more of a tendency to inspire fanaticism than others. We need to be able to say which ones those are. It’s also necessary to do it without demonizing particular people or sets of people. That can be hard to do. It’s still absurd to pretend a motivating ideology was not a motivating ideology.

  7. Minot says

    “Amazing: two men hack another man to death and publicly declare their religious motivation and it’s ‘Don’t listen to the men with blood on their hands”

    But I am not sure they have claimed a religious motivation, not directly anyway. There was lots of ‘Allah akbar-ing’ going on, but on the TV clip we all saw, he claimed that he was acting in revenge for the Muslims killed by US and UK military adventures abroad. In other words, he was motivated by anti-war, or anti-imperialist urges by his own account. I am also anti-war and anti-imperialist but I completely disagree with what he did and I don’t think that his actions impugn anti-imperialism or pacificism in any way.

  8. Minot says

    ” It’s still absurd to pretend a motivating ideology was not a motivating ideology.”

    I agree with that, but I don’t think Islam is the place to look for the motivating ideology here. If these men were not Muslims, do we imagine they would not be violent or murderous?

  9. Omar Puhleez says

    Minot @2 and Ophelia @6:

    Stalin murdered wholesale and often at random and impulse, but not in the name of ‘democracy’ per se. He always discriminated between ‘bourgeois democracy’, which he and Lenin both despised, and ‘proletarian democracy’, of which they approved. The latter was construed as ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’, which both Stalin and Lenin thought of as the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party. The party was shortly substituted for the proletariat and the dictator in turn for the party. The rest is history.

    Democracy and liberalism are the bedrock of any future worth having, and are inimical to authoritarian cultures. Fascism, Stalinism, Catholicism and Islam were and are universalist proselytising creeds intent on world domination. They have innocent and often gullible adherents for whom the attraction is often little more just the finding of a tribal identity. Believing is their gateway to belonging.

    Catholicism and Islam are the oldest forms of fascism on the planet, with Catholicism currently in a quiescent, defensive phase in most parts of the world, but ever-ready to flare up again most viciously, as it has done recently in Latin America.

    Islam shows its true nature across southern Asia, the ME and north Africa with monotonous regularity.

    The price of liberty is eternal vigilance: against the lot of them.

    (NYC)

  10. double-m says

    I agree with you, Ophelia. I’ve seen many examples of white middle-class arrogance in the (English speaking) Atheist community, but this isn’t one of them. The problem here is Islam, straight and simple. I say that as a Middle Eastern person who was born into a (liberal, Irshad-Manji-style) Muslim family. The comical part is that I’m frequently accused of “racism” for saying it, often by well-meaning white people. When I ask them who exactly I’m supposed to be racist against (myself?), they’ll usually break into some incoherent, defensive rant. Apparently the concept of a Middle Eastern Atheist is too much for them to handle, because it destroys their notion that Islam is something you’re born with and therefore entitled to immunity from attack.

    Again, Islam is the problem. And unless it is either overcome or reformed to the point where its core scripture is changed, it’ll continue to impede any progress we try to make.

  11. says

    double-m – quite so – my friend Maryam Namazie gets the same thing. She likes to point out that the real racism is the racism of low expectations.

  12. says

    Well, many sorts of things, but not all. Not in the name of human rights, for instance.

    true enough; that’s usually just the excuse rather than the motivation (see: “bringing democracy to the middle east”)

  13. says

    Quite so. When it is just an excuse, then that’s all it is. When it’s the real thing it’s less likely to motivate murderous violence than are ideologies that hate human rights. (So “in the name of” wasn’t the right way to put it. Quite the wrong way in fact.)

  14. double-m says

    Ophelia, that’s exactly right. A Middle Eastern person is supposed to be a Muslim and not an Atheist. After all, Irshad Manji, Leila Ahmed and my own family “prove” that Islam can be “humane” and “female friendly”, so “what’s the problem”, right? If you tell them, the problem is that these women hold superstitious beliefs which set a precedent for irrationality, they’ll tell you, you sound like “that Dawkins guy”.

    I wonder if their problem is with a Middle Eastern person embracing “white” rational concepts or with a woman sounding like one of the world’s smartest people (well, I don’t sound like him, but I’ll take the compliment).

  15. throwaway, extra beefy super queasy says

    Amazing: two men hack another man to death and publicly declare their religious motivation and it’s ‘Don’t listen to the men with blood on their hands – here’s some libertarian atheists I’ve just plucked out of my arse and they’re even worse!’

    What does this have to do with my comment? That’s not even a fair paraphrase of my comment. I never said “Don’t listen to…” anyone. I’m angry about the action of the perpetrators. I think Islam is a factor as it justifies their actions as ‘good’. And I”m annoyed by the reactions of some fellow atheists which regard this solitary act as some kind of tipping point where the detaining of all Muslims (within the UK) is seen as necessary, yet no one seems willing to feel the same about the stabbing of the Muslim last week in Birmingham. Where are all the calls to incarcerate all the racists?

  16. great1american1satan says

    Well, many sorts of things, but not all. Not in the name of human rights, for instance.

    I don’t know that it’s happened yet, but it doesn’t seem unlikely, now that Islamists are crying freedom of religion and taking over human rights committees at the UN and such. They’ll abuse the language of progressives while they lynch people, no question.

  17. great1american1satan says

    Today, I met two supposed “human rights” activists who advised me to get a medical certificate citing that my mental facilities were too diminished to realize the “impact” of my statements, and to apologize in a video or in a mosque to people who were “offended”

    -from Maryam’s blog, guest post by Imad.

    Damn word thieves.

  18. 'dirigible says

    “yet no one seems willing to feel the same about the stabbing of the Muslim last week in Birmingham”

    Which no one (sic) would care about if there wasn’t a beheading to defend.

    Even the Daily ****ing Mail say it’s almost certainly a racist attack, as part of that media coverage the case hasn’t got.

  19. throwaway, extra beefy super queasy says

    Which no one (sic) would care about if there wasn’t a beheading to defend.

    You’re damn right that’s a [sic] on both our parts. Mine was grammatical. Yours was unfounded insinuations about my motivation for bringing it up to defend a beheading… Which is clearly NOT what I was defending. Stop misrepresenting what I’ve said.

  20. Alain says

    @17

    They’ll abuse the language of progressives while they lynch people, no question.

    It’s happened. The UNHRC is infested with that language (where’s Orwell when we really need him?) And the dismaying thing is that even people on blogs like this can’t see the forest for the trees.

  21. Staff to three cats... says

    “yet no one seems willing to feel the same about the stabbing of the Muslim last week in Birmingham”

    Which no one (sic) would care about if there wasn’t a beheading to defend.

    Even the Daily ****ing Mail say it’s almost certainly a racist attack, as part of that media coverage the case hasn’t got

    Possibly because the perpetrator(s) of the stabbing in Birmingham didn’t stick around and declare their political and religious excuses to anyone who happened to be within earshot (and especially those who had camera-phones) while still covered in the blood of their victim?

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