There's one headline you didn’t read in the aftermath of the Manchester attack:
Isis celebrates ‘crusaders’ attack and vows further violence against Christians
Sounds silly, I know. But look at what Isis actually said in their statement after the bombing:
I have not seen the word ‘Christian’ mentioned in a single report since this statement was published. Not surprising in itself, as mainstream hacks can be relied upon to avoid the ‘C’ word wherever possible. In this context, though, it’s a serious oversight.
For Isis, the West is a Christian construct. In their astonishingly retro outlook, we’re all under the religious authority of Rome - and that makes us all followers of the Cross. By illogical extension, that also makes us ‘crusaders’. Yep - jihadi thinking isn’t known for its nuance. How else could they conflate ‘Cross Worshippers' with the little girls at an Ariana Grande gig? No distinction between religion and culture here.
Failure to grasp this simple point is at the root of the hours of banality-laden head-scratching punditry that followed Manchester. Salman Abedi wasn’t a loner, grown bored of his Xbox. He wanted to be a foot soldier in a religious war. Christianity on one side, ‘true’ Islam on the other. The principles of Christian civilisation on one side, the principles of Salafism on the other.
Just have a look at the snappily titled 2016 flick ‘Isil Fantastic Dream, End of World by Conquering Crusaders in Rome’. For these idiots, a ‘Cross Worshipper’ and a Westerner are the same thing. A Christian is a crusading ambassador of the West, and any Westerner is a Christian.
Most commentators choose to ignore this, and not irrationally. They argue there’s no sense in lending credibility to Isis’s culture war fantasies. Young girls attending pop concerts cannot seriously be deemed ‘crusaders’. Using this language only dignifies the pseudo-history propping up their imaginary caliphate. ‘Our response must always be to ask what terrorists want and then do exactly the opposite,’ said Brendan Cox this week, in an eloquent interview. You can see the logic. But airbrushing out Isis’s anti-Christian motives only impoverishes our understanding of the problem. How else are we to interpret their two latest atrocities - one in Mindanao, Philippines where nine Christians were tied together and shot; and another only yesterday morning in Egypt, where a bus load of Coptic Christians were murdered?
The truth is that Christianophobia is core to understanding Islamism. These people hate Christianity. They hate everything about Western culture, which they believe derives from the principles of Christianity. They hate the ‘golden rule’, hate the notion of inalienable equality, hate the elevation of worldly things implied by the Christian incarnation. This is a hatred that flourishes regardless of geography, nationhood or, yes, Mr Corbyn, foreign policy. We do nobody any favours by ignoring it.
Luke de Pulford is Director of the Arise Foundation and serves on the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission