Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy, writes on the conviction – and convictions – of Ali Harbi Ali, who murdered Sir David Amess.
Ali Harbi Ali was convicted earlier this week of the murder of Sir David Amess MP at a constituency surgery on 15 October last year. If there was any doubt about the motive before the trial, the trial put these doubts to rest. Ali was not ashamed of his Islamic motives. He explained very clearly that he had wanted to travel to Syria to join the self-styled Islamic State. After concluding that that was too “difficult”, he decided “to help Muslims here” instead. He had no regrets or shame about the brutal murder of an MP and felt he had done nothing wrong. He had also scoped out and planned attacks on other MPs who had voted in favour of air strikes against Islamic State.
Ali was persuaded by Islamic State’s use of Islamic texts to justify their actions. He was struck by a quotation from the Qur’an which says, “Strike them wherever you find them.” This is from Q 2:191,and is one of many Qur’anic verses used to justify violence. Ali also quoted from the Hadith, a saying of Muhammad that “War is deception”. This is from Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 3029. Ali explained that, as a consequence, “If to further my war I have to deceive, I will do that.”
Ali told the court: “If you encourage someone to an act of Jihad, it’s a good thing.” He said he carried out the attack “for Islam” and that “if Islamic State didn’t exist, I would have done the same thing.” When asked whether he regarded himself as a radical, Ali replied “I am a moderate Muslim.” He later stated plainly: “I killed him in the cause of Muslims and for the sake of Allah.”
I have written at length before on the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace. In short, if you judge Islam by the texts and example of Muhammad then the answer is no. Of course, most Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding people, but a significant minority are radicalised when the teaching of the Qur’an is explained to them. This is precisely what happened to Ali Harbi Ali. He wasn’t the first person radicalised to commit violence in the name of Islam, and he won’t be the last.
Not the first Christian MP stabbed by a Muslim in a constituency surgery
It bears repeating too, that Sir David was not the first Christian MP to be stabbed by a Muslim in a constituency surgery. Stephen Timms MP, was stabbed in 2010 in a constituency surgery by a Muslim woman with Islamic motives. Timms suffered grievous wounds and was fortunate to survive the attack. One wonders whether there will be more attacks on MPs by radicalised Muslims. MPs are clearly a target, and they deserve stronger protection.
Avoiding the Islamic connection
After the trial, it is impossible to deny that Sir David’s murder was an act of Islamic terrorism. What is disturbing is just how slowly that conclusion came to be accepted. Even though it was quickly made clear that the Crown Prosecution Service would submit to the court that the murder had a religiously motivated terrorist connection, many media outlets and even MPs seemed keen to avoid making any connection with Islam. At the time, I wrote asking whether we would now face up to Islamist ideology. It was clear then that this wasn’t happening.
Blaming social media
In the immediate aftermath, MPs queued up to blame social media for Sir David’s murder. They suggested that stronger restrictions on social media were required. They studiously avoided any mention of Islam. In fact the only mention of ‘Islam’ in the tributes to Sir David Amess in the House of Commons was Sir Peter Bottomley saying “We stand with Muslims against Islamophobia.” As if Islamophobia was to blame for terrorism.
Sir Keir Starmer used Prime Minister’s Questions after the murder to complain about harmful content online and to ask the government to bring forward the online safety Bill. Mark Francois argued in his tribute that it was time for MPs to “get on and do some legislating”, saying that they should “take the forthcoming Online Safety Bill and toughen it up markedly.”
It’s all very easy to blame social media for violence. I do agree that people should not be able to promote violence on social media, or anywhere else for that matter. But let’s be clear, social media did not cause Ali Harbi Ali to kill David Amess. It was Islamic ideology that did that. But no MP had the courage to say that.
Time to talk about Islam?
What will it take for MPs and society in general to stop avoiding the Islamic connection with terrorism? I sincerely hope it will not be more attacks. If we can’t even openly discuss the motives of attackers, what hope have we got of defeating them, let alone challenging their ideology? It will not do to deny the Islamic connection. Neither will it do to write it off as ‘extremism’. This won’t persuade anyone.
In the internet age people can easily read the texts for themselves. This is a good thing. Many Muslims are reading what their texts say and abandoning Islam as they are confronted with the reality of Islamic teaching. Others are reading the texts and being radicalised. The answer, of course, is confident Christianity which is bold and unafraid to state that Islamic teaching is false, and able to provide solid answers to Muslims about the way, the truth and the life. Our politicians are too scared to say that Islam is a false religion, but Christians should not be. Clearly anyone who is not a Muslim does not accept Islamic teaching. We should be unafraid to say so.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if more Christians boldly and unashamedly spoke the truth about Islam and many other things. I can’t help feeling it would transform society. After all, this is what the early Christians did, and starting from small numbers they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
This starts with you…