Tim Dieppe comments on the attack in Westminster this week.
Westminster has been hit by a shocking act of deliberate unprovoked violence leaving five people dead and 50 injured. The Police’s working assumption is that the attacker was inspired by “Islamist-related terrorism.” Theresa May has said that the attacker was British-born, known to the security services, and had previously been investigated over concerns about violent extremism. Eight other people have been arrested in related investigations.
The Islamic State has been encouraging this kind of attack for some time, and has now claimed responsibility for the attack. The method of using a car and knife is similar to the attack carried out at Ohio State university last year. Using a vehicle as a weapon to kill people was also the method used in Nice killing 86, and in Berlin killing 12 last year. Yesterday, police in Antwerp arrested another man who tried to drive his car containing weapons into the crowd. Wednesday’s attack occurred exactly one year after the attack on Brussels airport and metro station which killed 32 people. It seems that attacks like this are becoming a regular occurrence throughout Europe.
The city responds`
Many people are rightly praising the police and security services for their brave, efficient, and well planned responses to the attack. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those whose lives have been lost, as well as to those injured by the attack. No one should have to fear for their lives when walking along the pavement or policing the Houses of Parliament.
London has reacted with a rather stiff upper lip, ‘keep calm and carry on’ type of approach. Business will continue and parliament will resume. There is a laudable determination not to let terrorists terrorise us. At the same time, some of this could also be interpreted as acceptance of a new normality. Should we accept this reality and move on, or try to examine the root causes and see what can be done about them?
The threat level for international terrorism in the UK remains at severe – meaning an attack is highly likely – where it has been since August 2014. We were told earlier this month, that there are some 500 live counter-terrorism investigations at any one time, and that 13 attacks have been successfully prevented since June 2013. The security services are known to be monitoring some 3,000 homegrown Islamist extremists believed to be willing to carry out attacks in Britain.
Given these incredible statistics, and the increasing prevalence of individual attacks, it was only a matter of time before one was successful. The question is how have we allowed ourselves to reach this place?
Islam inspires violence
It needs to be said, again and again, that Muslims who carry out attacks like this are sincerely and devoutly following what Muhammad did and taught. Muhammad was not a peaceful person. He led and participated in multiple violent attacks against non-Muslims, and sanctioned many more acts of violence. There are dozens of ‘sword verses’ in the Qur’an which have been used by Muslims throughout the history of Islam to justify violent jihad. Islam was founded by a warrior, expanded though warfare, and continues to inspire acts of violence today.
Islam, at its heart then, is not, and has not been a peaceful religion. This is not to deny that there are many peaceful Muslims. Indeed, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and peace loving people. Islam itself though, should be evaluated by what it teaches and how it has expanded through history. Those who take the texts and traditions seriously will want to follow the example of Muhammad. Most Muslims though, are not encouraged to read the Qur’an in a language that they understand, and so may be unaware of the true nature of Islam.
A convert to Islam
We now know that the attacker was a convert to Islam, who subsequently changed his name. He had previously been in prison for violent offences, raising questions about whether he was radicalised in prison. A report into home-grown terrorism released earlier this month, showed that religious converts are disproportionately involved in Islamism-inspired terrorism. This makes sense because converts are less likely to be cultural or nominal Muslims with little knowledge of the teachings of Islam. They are more likely to have investigated the claims of Islam and to have read the Qur’an in a language they understand.
We have welcomed Islam
The working assumption of the powers that be has been that Islam is benign, or even a force for good. We have welcomed and encouraged the influence of Islam in our society. We have allowed segregated communities to develop with little or no attempts at integration. London is a leading centre of Islamic finance. Halal food is the norm in many of our restaurants and supermarkets. We allow sharia councils to operate, creating a quasi-parallel legal system that systematically discriminates against women. We have turned a blind eye to crimes committed by people in Islamic communities in the name of tolerance, or for fear of being labelled Islamophobic.
Some voices have consistently warned about the consequences of this, including from Christian Concern. They have been labelled Islamophobic in an attempt to silence what is politically unacceptable to hear. The consequences, however, are inevitable and predictable. Now we have thousands of homegrown potential Islamic terrorists. It is all too likely that further attacks will be forthcoming.
What can be done?
What is good is that there is now increased recognition of the problem and willingness to talk about it in the public sphere. In this respect, the Casey Review was a big step forwards in facing the reality of our failure to integrate. I previously outlined ten practical policies that the government could adopt in response to the increasing segregation and influence of Islam. These policies would make a real difference and I hope and pray that the government will take up these ideas.
Earlier this month it was reported that the counter-extremism taskforce is working on plans to ask Imams to deliver their sermons in English. This is a sensible proposal that would aid integration as well as helping to monitor what is being said for any possible incitement to acts of violence.
Recovering our Christian identity
The main thing that needs to be done is to recover our sense of Christian identity as a nation. Multiculturalism has undermined our sense of identity and done untold damage to our society, not least through welcoming the influence of Islam. The Bible has provided the spiritual and moral foundations of our society in the past, and can do so again. This can only be achieved with an unashamed church that boldly proclaims the truth and is unafraid to criticise Islam.
We need to love all Muslims, be they nominal or radical. The most loving thing to do is to share with others the love of Christ. This will necessarily involve confidently critiquing the truth claims of Islam. Many Muslims are converting when effectively confronted with the reality of Islam and the truth of Christianity. We need to see a lot more of this.
The only effective response to radical Islam is radical Christianity. Reformation starts with individuals. Passionate prayer fuels public proclamation. We all need to be prayerful in private and courageously unashamed in public. Every one of us has a part to play in this battle. Will you play yours?