Here we go again. 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.
Cue the usual responses. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, says:
‘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.’
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.
Various Muslims and other commentators have done the same shtick — once again claiming that the motivations of the extremists are nothing to do with religion, but are instead political in motive. More original attempts to escape the point include the suggestion by Sir Simon Jenkins in today’s Guardian that shopping malls themselves are to blame for the attack:
‘The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.’
All of which suggests, for the thousandth time, that everybody is trying to avoid the point.
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.
As I have said often in response to this ‘noble lie’, the only way that Islam is going to get through its current problems is if followers of the religion realise that they have to actively confront the problem. Each provision of an opt-out and excuse delays the day when the religion properly confronts itself and makes the claims of the jihadis a wholly impermissible — instead of plausible and sometimes permissible — response to the religion in whose name they act.