Most of these acts seem to have been the work of Moslems committed to a jihadist war against the infidels who do not share their beliefs, but some are probably the copycat acts of mentally ill individuals who don’t necessarily share those beliefs.
Understanding the causes is crucial if we are to know how best to respond. Well informed observers say that the jihadists are influenced by ideas expounded during the darkest days of Islam and ignore Koranic texts that embrace tolerance and say religion cannot be coerced. Islamic history has not always been one of violent persecution. Even today mainstream scholars and a majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the ultra-conservative teachings of the Salafis and Wahhabis who have influenced the terrorists. They see Western life as degenerate and a threat to the purity of Islam, justifying violent jihad. Christians and Jews are their primary targets but Muslims who don’t share the jihadist beliefs and methods are also victims.
So far the worst atrocities in Europe have been in France and Germany, but the London bombings of 7/7 and the murder of Lee Rigby show that the UK is not immune. The attempt to abduct an RAF serviceman in Norfolk this week suggests that we daren’t be complacent. The Security Services say a terrorist attack in the UK is “highly likely” and the churches have been told to tighten security after the Normandy incident. There have been at least 20 cases here since 2003 which were defined as terrorist in nature within the framework of the Terrorism Acts. So far the police and MI5 have succeeded in detecting these plots before they were carried out but we know that at least 800 people went from Britain to fight with ISIS and it they manage to return further plots are highly likely.
What matters in the long term is preventing the radicalisation of young people so they are not recruited to extremist ideas and violent activity. Developing a sense of belonging to this country and embracing its core values of tolerance and parliamentary democracy are basic to this. Families and schools have important contributions to make to this. So too do the social media, used extensively by extremists to propagate their ideologies, but censorship is alien to their raison d’etre. Freedom of speech is basic to a tolerant society and pressures on social media providers could be counter-productive in the eyes of young people.
Ultimately, the most effective ways of preventing radicalisation lies locally in how minorities feel welcome and respected by their neighbours. Racist prejudice and discrimination in education and employment are significant factors in the radicalisation of young people in minority communities. There have been commendable examples of local churches, mosques and synagogues’ reaching out to each other with respect but without compromising their own beliefs. This helps to build harmonious community life and reduces the sense of alienation among impressionable young people. The Bible teaches us to not ill-treat foreigners in our midst for in the words of St Peter “we are all aliens and strangers in the world”.
Written by: Miriam Emenike
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