It was never my intention to make this an explicitly political blog, but something has happened recently that I feel the need to respond to. If I respond here, it saves me time and effort on social media.
The thing that I need to respond to is not the attacks in Manchester and London themselves, but the reaction of someone on my Facebook timeline to those attacks.
The people on my Facebook timeline, in the aftermath of a terrorist incident, tend to fall into three categories: 1. The majority, whose concerns are humanitarian, who worry about the people affected, including not just the public, but the people who work in the emergency services; lament the conditions that seem to have led to the attack, and fervently hope that something can be done to improve things. Call these people naive if you insist, but, if the world is going to improve, these are the people who are going to bring about that improvement. 2. The minority (among, as I said, my Facebook timeline) who want somebody shot, or hanged, or tortured, or whatever: the stale, cartoonish, right-wing, knee-jerk reaction. I have reduced this body down to about 2 or 3, and I only maintain those for personal reasons, which need not concern us, here. 3. Neither of the above. This is the category that concerns this blog post.
The person whose post I am engaged in repudiating is an atheist. I am also an atheist. It remains to be seen during the course of this dispute how similar our atheism makes us.
When he says, ‘Members of so-called Islamic State ARE Muslims too, despite denials by some Muslims and some on the left,’ I completely disagree with him.
I live in West Yorkshire, where there are a lot of Muslims, most of whom were born in the United Kingdom. I spent 12 years working in the IT industry, in Leeds. During that time, I worked in teams where 50 per cent or more of the members were Muslims of South Asian origin, usually, but not always, male, and, usually, but not always, born in the United Kingdom.
These Muslims hate Al Qaeda and ISIS more than I do. They hate them for all the same reasons that I do, plus the fact that they are personally worried about the destabilisation of the communities and businesses that they and their parents have worked so painstakingly to create.
These Muslims also hate the government of Saudi Arabia. The very idea of not allowing women to vote, or drive, or occupy political office, or run businesses, is something they find utterly ridiculous. These Muslim husbands, if their wives had a good business idea, would not think, “This is proscribed by the Quran”. They would think, “This might put us on an earner”.
I am a white, British man who grew up in the Jewish part of North East Leeds. Between me, and the Muslims of West Yorkshire: we eat the same curries and kebabs; we are addicted to the same kinds of sport; we attended the same universities; we work in the same companies; we are concerned about the same kind of political issues. Apart from the practice of Islam itself, the only things that we don’t have in common are the consumption of alcohol, and – possibly – attitudes towards homosexuality. The last one is, in my experience, academic.
I have socialised with Irish people who were openly sympathetic to the IRA. I have never met a single British Muslim whose reaction to Al Qaeda and ISIS was anything other than revulsion.
The last conversation I had with a British Muslim, a few hours ago, wasn’t about the atrocities in Manchester, or London. It was about cricket.