Tag Archives: Terrorism

Responses to Orlando

Maajid Nawaz predictably doesn’t mince any words when it comes to the tragedy in Florida. “Admit It: These Terrorists Are Muslims”, he says.

Liberals who claim that this has nothing to do with Islam today are being as unhelpful and as ignorant as conservatives who claim that this represents all of Islam. The problem so obviously has something to do with Islam. That something is Islamism, or the desire to impose any version of Islam over any society. Jihadism is the attempt to do so by force. This ideology of Islamism has been rising almost unchecked among Muslims for decades. It is a theocratic ideology, and theocracy should no longer have any place in the world today.

The general point is true even if Maajid Nawaz is overstating things with this particular tragedy. Even though he claimed to carry out his monstrous acts in the name of ISIS there appear to be conflicting reports over the extent that Omar Mateen shared their poisonous ideology. The reports that he was apparently a regular at the club he went on to attack paints a picture of a conflicted and disturbed individual. But those are precisely the sorts of people who gravitate towards extremist groups; were he white and grown up in a different community he sounds like the sort of person who may well have been drawn towards the white nationalist far right.

It’s certainly wrong to use this tragedy to demonise out-groups. Donald Trump’s two minute hate against all American Muslims is despicable. But some of the sanctimonious diatribes I’ve seen from male feminists about “toxic masculinity”, blaming their favourite target of low-status “straight white males” are little better.

The world does have a problem with violent extremism in the name of a perverted version of Islam. America has a problem with mass killings in a nation awash with guns. What happened in Orlando was a terrible intersection of the two.

Posted in Religion and Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

میں لاہور میں ہوں

The title of the this post hopefully reads “I am Lahore” in Urdu. If I’ve trusted Google Translate too much, I apologise in advance and hope an Urdu speaker will correct me.

After Paris, after Istanbul, after Brussels, another senseless massacre. Cold blooded sectarian murder of women and children on the most holy day of the Christian calendar. Another action by the nihilistic apocalyptic cult which has appropriated the symbolism and rhetoric of Islam.

It’s difficult to know how to react; this attack can be seen as part of the same global war as the attacks in Europe and the war in Syria, but its context is also the ongoing ugly sectarianism of Pakistan and the systematic persecution of that nation’s Christian minority.

The Taliban, Islamic State, Al Queda, Boko Haram and others like them are cults. It’s tempting but dangerously wrong to claim that they nothing to do with Islam. It’s hard for westerners with little knowledge of Islamic history to understand where Islam stops and these cults begin; like all cults they twist holy texts to their own ends, and ignore centuries of interpretation by wiser scholars. The best we can do is listen to wiser voices within the Islamic world. And show completely solidarity with those in the Muslim world who take a principled stand against extremism, sometimes at great personal risk.

What we can and must do is deal with our own extremists. both the obvious bigots of the far-right who want to start pogroms against Muslims, and terrorism’s useful idiots of the far-left who engage in apologia or whatabouttery out of misplaced anti-oppression dogma and post-colonial guilt.

And no, I am not going to change any of my social media avatars to a Pakistan flag. The combination of the religious symbolism on the flag and the sectarian nature of the crime makes it seem, at least for me, too disrespectful towards the victims.

Comments are disabled on this post because I don’t want to deal with the sorts of trolls it risks attracting.

Posted in Religion and Politics | Tagged | Comments Off

Much of what I said in response to the Paris attacks in November here and here are as relevent now as they were four months ago. There is little more I can add.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

Ken Livingstone has a lot in common with Richard Dawkins. The recent public pronouncements of both seem to come from their unfiltered Id. Saying the July 7th bombers “Gave their lives to protest against the war” is at best grossly tone-deaf, and at worst something I really don’t want to think about.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

More thoughts in the aftermath of Paris

Like many others I’m still struggling to make sense of what happened in Paris. It’s wrong to pretend this act of terrorism has nothing to do with the Islamic world, but it’s just as wrong to try to demonise Islam itself. Most of those killed by ISIS are Muslims. I’ve tried to make sense of things by looking a parallels in Christian history; the Thirty Years War is an obvious one, and you could see parallels between Wahhabism and Calvinism if you squint hard enough.

But unlike some people I’m not going to pretend I actually know what I’m talking about.

ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, call them what you want. They’re an apocalyptic cult masquerading as a throwback to a earlier, purer version of Islam. There are many similar cults and sects in the Christian world, particularly parts of the US, who hold broadly similar beliefs, with a warped and selective interpretation of The Bible.

The only difference is those sects are not committing large-scale non-state violence at an international level. But it’s not impossible to imagine an alternative history where the American Civil War turned out differently and parts of the Old South are a patchwork of unstable failed states and oil-rich theocracies, subject to proxy wars and ham-fisted interventions by rival European powers. Such a world could easily spawn something looking very much like ISIS except for the religious symbols they display.

There are a lot of responses that would be completely wrong from a xenophobic backlash against Muslims to pretending nothing is wrong or blaming everything on the west. As someone once said on Twitter, it’s better to be a zero than a minus one, and one way to avoid being a minus one is to read up a bit more widely than blogs and op-eds that simply tell you what you want to hear. We may all need to absorb some uncomfortable truths and make some difficult collective decisions in the coming months and years.

Posted in Religion and Politics | Tagged , , , | Comments Off


First they came for the cartoonists. And some people wrote ugly victim-blaming thinkpieces in response, preferring to denounce the victims than criticise the ideology of the murderers.

Then they came for the rock fans.

Like so many others on Friday night, I was at a gig. At the time the terrible events in Paris were happening, Mostly Autumn were playing at The Grand Opera House in York. In a dark coincidence they were performing the album “Dressed in Voices” in full, a concept album told from the point of view of a victim of a senseless massacre.

After the gig I spent an enjoyable couple of hours in a pub with several members of the band. Someone did mention that there had been some kind of terrorist attack at a gig in France, but details were still sketchy. It was only when I got back to my B&B and checked the news websites that the full scale of the tragic events in Paris became apparent. As someone who goes a great many gigs, that struck very close to home.

In a sense it was like an attack on a place of worship. It’s what you expect from a cult who regularly attacks mosques that belong to Islamic traditions other than their own during Friday morning prayers.

Terrible events like this bring out the worse in some people and the best in others. The usual attention-seeking blowhards are spouting predictably offensive things; I really do not want to hear what racists, Christian fundamentalists, militant atheists or the US gun lobby have to say and wish others would stop signal-boosting their garbage. The same goes for anyone who’s first instinct is to pin all of the blame on anyone else but the terrorists and their direct supporters. There’s plenty of other blame to go around from the neocons’ ill-conceived and incompetently executed wars to the postmodern left’s unholy alliance with radical Islamism. But it was neither neocons nor postmodernist academics who pulled the triggers on Friday night.

Life has to go on. If Europe becomes a meaner, more xenophobic and more authoritarian place, it will let terror have what it wants. There is great danger that bad actors such as the far right and the security-industrial complex will try to exploit this tragedy, but we should resist them. We must not give in to fear. But we also need to be able to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions about what sort of society we want to be, and exactly what we are prepared to do in order to protect it.

I haven’t enabled comments on this post, because I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with the drive-by trolls any post on this subject is likely to attract.

Posted in Religion and Politics | Tagged , , | Comments Off