The BBC headline says it all:
‘The killing of 84 people celebrating Bastille Day is the worst attack on France since the 13 November attacks.’
These day in Europe you don’t have to reach back many months to find carnage even exceeding that in Nice last night.
We still don’t have many details about last night’s attacker. But we know that the man driving the truck was called Mohammed. Of course that doesn’t mean there is any connection to Mohammed Atta, Mohammed Merah, Mohammed Bouyeri, Mohammed Sadiq Khan, Mohammed Abrini or the most famous Mohammed of all – Mohammed. On the contrary, the striking prevalence of people called Mohammed going nuts and slaughtering everyone is just an unhappy coincidence. It could just have easily been people called Gary or Nigel.
At present all those people who like to extol the ‘You’re all guilty’ theory whenever a non-Muslim terrorist does something are busy talking up the ‘crazy, loner, no-mates’ theory about last night’s attacker. They may be right or they may be wrong. But is a certain degree of introspection too much to ask at a time like this?
While the chatterati play these games, publics around the world and especially in France are on a steep and unpleasant learning-curve. Although politicians and pundits of left and right don’t like mentioning the salient facts – let alone draw any policy conclusions from them – the public are coming to their own conclusions about the problem. In a poll carried out two years before the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 74% of French people said they had come to the conclusion that Islam is an intolerant religion which is incompatible with the French state. I wonder what that figure will be now?
Of course we must keep stressing that the majority of Muslims do not approve of this kind of violence. But one does begin to wonder why quite so many Muslims use the aftermath of an atrocity like last night’s to engage in misinformation and Dawah (proselytising). I’m thinking of those Muslims (and a good many non-Muslims) who keep insisting that the problem is simply that European publics just need better information or more education and that, in any case, ‘Islam is the answer’. ‘If only we didn’t have tabloid newspapers we could get that number down to under 50%’ they imagine. It’s a fine theory until you ponder how anyone could put a positive gloss on events like those last night in Nice.
In any case, a growing number of people feel they have got quite enough information already. They do not think it is their eyes and ears that have got it wrong, and they do not want to keep hearing from nearly every Muslim with any public profile that the problem is ‘Islamophobia’ or misrepresentations of their otherwise blameless and peaceable religion. They want such people to admit – as many of the rest of us would admit – with burning concern and shame that they have a big problem on their hands which they need help in solving. Even now very few Muslim public figures are willing to do this. In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was asked about how to tackle ‘Islamophobia’. His response suggested that the newspapers and general public simply have to be corrected and re-educated about the facts.
Here is a different suggestion: do everything you can to stop people called Mohammed committing mass slaughter in Europe on a bi-monthly basis. Get the hatred out of the mosques and the books, get the bigotry out of the community and the slightest tolerance of it identified as a major part of the problem. Of course most Muslims can’t do anything themselves to stop somebody like last night’s attacker carrying out such a deed, but they can at least have the decency to look like they’re taking part in the kind of criticism and introspection the rest of us would take part in if someone sharing even a jot of our identity had carried out such an attack.
It’s not a wholesale solution, but it would be a start.