The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault.
In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month.
The terror attack in Paris last week represents Islamism’s most explicit declaration of war on free society. Non-Muslims were slaughtered in a non-Muslim country to avenge a so-called crime against a blasphemy law that is not even Islamic — but merely Islamist. If there’s any blasphemy here, it’s that of Islamism itself against my religion, Islam.
At last, on New Year’s Day, the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, did what no other leader of the Muslim world has done to date: he named Islam’s real enemy.
This time last year, homeowners in Oxfordshire and Berkshire were recovering after storms had brought down power lines and blocked roads. Soon, power cuts were the least of their problems. The Thames flooded. In the south-west, the emergency services evacuated the Somerset Levels, and the sea wall at Dawlish in Devon collapsed — cutting the rail line to Cornwall.
Political Britain burst its banks.
‘I shoot further than you, I am the biggest of the men!’ says John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. He is talking about the way politicians conduct themselves in the immigration debate. ‘We have got to be more grown up about it and not be like people who are screaming at each other across banks of a river,’ he says. ‘They mustn’t do what some people call male diplomacy which is always around the urinal… that kind of argument, it doesn’t work!’
Sentamu prefers a still small voice of calm from politicians, even if his own voice is booming and indomitable.
I’ve never lived with a man I didn’t marry: Tweedledee, 1979–1984, and Tweedledum, 1984–1995. (The names have been changed to irritate the pair of them.) So when I left my second union and moved to Brighton to chase the man who is now my third (and hopefully final) husband, I was keen to establish and keep separate households. I was quite pleased to find that not only was I having a blast seeing Daniel while maintaining a maverick social life (he didn’t want to be in a swimming pool full of drunken, shrieking girls’n’gays any more than I wanted to be in a room full of game-playing, beer-drinking men) but was apparently part of a growing social phenomenon.
The targeted assassinations at Charlie Hebdo are triply repellent. Being planned, they are the product of considered decisions, not a moment of folly. Being aimed at journalists, they have deliberately chosen the vulnerable heart of the freedom that is fundamental to our values. Being gratuitously cruel in casually murdering an already wounded policeman, they display a chilling depravity. As such, attacks like this are intolerable: they must be stopped, and therefore they must be understood.
This time three years ago, I hadn’t jumped a single thing for almost ten years. This season, I am happily jumping hedges that my horse and I can’t even see over the top of. Crazy? Most likely. But when the adrenaline is pumping, and an inviting-looking hedge is looming directly in front of you — well, what’s a girl to do?
The sheer joy of hunting comes from far more than just dressing up in a smart coat and shiny boots and drinking port.