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It is not enough for Muslims to say ‘we condemn terrorism’

It is not enough for Muslims to say ‘We condemn terrorism’. Sure – we believe you. But something more is needed. What? It’s easy to get bogged down in the slightly wrong issue of violence and war. We should not expect Muslims to condemn all violence that claims a religious justification – for most war does tend to claim such justification, and an element of this lingers in the West, and few of us are complete pacifists.

What we need to hear from British Muslims is that they reject the vision from which terrorism comes. It is a vision of society unified by one political and religious ideology. It is a vision of pluralism, and secular politics, swept aside by this vision. It is a theocratic vision.

This is the authentic mission of Islam, the terrorists believe, and they are bitterly angry at Muslims who dilute it, who adapt to Western assumptions. They are enraged, literally maddened, by such pragmatism and complacency. Islamist violence stems from anger that Islam’s theocratic potential is being ignored, soft-pedalled, thwarted.

This is the issue we must focus on. Does Islam have an intrinsic desire for theocracy? If so, that’s a serious problem. If so, we can’t really let such a religion be – we have to demand its transformation.

The Muslim who says, ‘I believe in this theocratic vision, but I reject the attempt to create it by violence’ should be challenged. No, sorry, this vision is the source of the terrorists’ rage – it must be clearly rejected. It is not tolerable if it gives rise to regular atrocities.

It seems to me that the media does not know how to discuss this sort of theoretical theological matter. It gets sidetracked by detail and the normal political point scoring. The discussion must get bolder, brainier.


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