I don’t live in London. I live in Preston, a city in the North of England. In fact, it is 234 miles to Westminster Bridge from my home and would take me four hours and seven minutes in the car to reach. Some may say that it doesn’t affect me. That it shouldn’t. Such a terrible event happening so far away. But it does.
I don’t live in Stockholm or Brussels or Istanbul or Orlando or any of the other places where Islamist terrorists have struck. They have proven they can strike anywhere, anytime with a variety of different methods.
They are correct to say that it is unlikely a terrorist will attack the people of Preston. I would be shocked if it occurred because you ask around and some people in Britain don’t even know where it is let alone those from abroad. Although I once mentioned it to an American and they knew exactly where it was for two reasons: First place a KFC was opened and the first place a Mormon baptism occurred (In the River Ribble).
Terror feeds off fear and fear is our most potent emotion. It grips up far harder than any other feeling we have. It feeds like a parasite off all our other emotions. It feeds off love, hate, disappointment, envy and so on. Fear is the easiest thing to trigger and the hardest emotion to ignore. Terrorism has never achieved its aim and I dare you to point out to me where it has succeeded on its own.
How do others react?
After every attack, people question what is the best way to react. The same goes for this time and I hear the same platitudes of we must be united against this evil and this hate. I also hear the other side that say it is refugees and immigrants that are to blame. That multiculturalism has failed and is now a threat to our way of life. That we should follow the Trump train and ban Muslims and make worshipping the religion of Islam illegal.
Both of sides are wrong in my opinion but for two different reasons. Those on the united front, who happen to be the majority of our politicians, spend their days dividing us into categories. In a lot of respects, the distrust of Muslims and Islam and the constant misunderstanding of the religion is down to politicians and sections of the media demonising Muslims as a whole. But whilst that is being said, there is another section of the political class and the media who then claim that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism at all. We are not unified on anything, except that we dislike seeing dead bodies on our streets.
Flip to the other side and those who basically want to ban Islam and Muslims and refugees and so on. They are wrong and they are worse than the other group for one clear reason. They are cowards. They believe they are defending this great nation, whilst attacking its citizens and attacking the one thing that makes this country so great: its pluralism, its right of the individual not to be treated as such, its freedom of speech and freedom of religion. They are cowards because they offer no solutions because the work would be too hard and too nuanced for them to understand. They are cowards because they risk this nation and talk down this nation for personal gain. Nigel Farage is a coward to go on Fox News and attack London immediately after the actual London attack and talk down to the people of London whilst they grieve.
How do I think we should behave?
We have heard much in the days since the attack. We are encouraged to keep calm and carry on. That is the British way. The ironic thing is that most of us have no choice but to carry on. We have bills to pay so we must work. Our children must go to school. Our doctors, nurses and paramedics must continue to save lives. Society must always keep going. But I believe there is a deeper meaning to keep calm and carry on.
Britain has never been known for being a hysterical nation. Keep calm and carry on means that we should change how we behave on a personal, emotional level as well as on a professional level. We should not turn on fellow Brits because of the religion they follow. We should not turn on refugees and immigrants when the majority are hard working and just want to a safe place to live. We are the fifth richest country in the World. We can afford to help.
What to do about Islam
That being said, there is an important issue we need to address. These terrorist are Islamic. They believe in establishing sharia law, the oppression of women and gays, non-believers, believers of other religions, apostates and so on. These tenets are in Islam. It is disingenuous to claim that these terrorist have nothing to do with Islam. It is ok to say that they may not represent every one of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the World. That is because there are different groups and schisms and factions within the religion as there is with every other religion.
You may hear some people say that Islam is worse than other religions and that Christianity doesn’t have people killing on this scale. This may be true now, but it wasn’t in the past. Christianity and Judaism and every other religion have had its time when it was the greatest threat to humanity. Islam is currently having its turn and I am certain in the future another religion will take its place. But how do we respond to these people?
There are many great men and women trying to reform Islam and bring it into the fold of liberal democracies. The reason Christianity and Judaism, etc don’t appear to be an issue in the same way that Islam is in the current climate, is because those other religions have been tempered by liberalism, feminism, LGBT fight for rights and in general secularism. These modernists are trying to do the same thing with Islam.
The truth is that any set of ideas can be tempered down to fit into a society and cohabitate in peace. The majority of Muslims do this, but in many respects, there are still frictions. Take the discussion over the burka or take the polls that say the majority of British Muslims believe apostasy is worthy of death.
If we wish to defeat Islamism that appears constantly to be the voice of Islam in the majority of discourse, we need to support the reformist and modernists. Give them a stronger voice. If they can win, then secular Islam can take its rightful place alongside secular humanism, secular Christianity, secular Judaism and so on. This is a fight we can and we will win.
We have to win.
Hold on to hope
After every attack, there is a period of anger and fear. But we must never let those emotions take control of us and cloud our judgment. Never let the extremes take hold. Look for hope and when you find it pull it close and hold it tight.
Read books that offer you hope. Human history is about progression and there are plenty of amazing novels, informative works of non-fiction, pages and pages of poetry that display our capacity as a species to move forward. The words on the page will always hold that truth that because they demonstrate that we all have the ability to think differently and can tell our stories through the medium of the written word.
If you can keep yourself informed and inspired, you can keep your mind free. As long as there is just one free mind, there is hope for humanity and this death cult can never win.