Reading Time: 3 minutes By GDJ2015 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 3 minutes

What has happened in London overnight is another terrible example of completely redundant ideas and ideology taking hold and being used for moments of mass idiocy (where idiocy is not nearly strong enough).

The political ramifications are interesting and important. This short piece is not an attempt to opportunistically use this event to further my own political agenda, though it will align with the voting preference, but hopefully rationally so.

I saw someone’s comments on Facebook today that said:

If after tonight you are still going to vote Labour then you can seriously go and fuck yourself.

I want to challenge this idea. Some time ago, after a terrorist attack in the US spurned on Trump in his candidacy and campaign, I wrote the following (in “Voting for Trump and Perpetuating the Islamic Victim Narrative and Terrorism“):

Whether or not any bomb or stabbing events in the States over the last few days were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists, the scenario is an easy one for the fundamentalists, with a bent for terrorism, to win. Creating chaos with bombs and killings stirs up a hornet’s nest of anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic fear and panic. This fear and panic play into the hands of Trump supporters and a widening support-base, whipping up their phobic behaviour. For those teetering on the edge, it will be enough to draw them in.

This is how it happens, this eventually self-perpetuating tragedy:

  1. People in society are afraid of terrorists and outsiders.
  2. Trump plays into this to create a solid niche support base.
  3. ISIS (and any other nefarious group or individual) recognise this. They realise that creating more havoc will get Trump more support. They want Trump elected because…
  4. they know that he will be Islamaphobic. Islamophobia plays into the ISIS (etc.) narrative. If people fear Muslims, it creates an “us” and “them” culture. This further alienates Muslims as moderates and liberals are prejudiced against and tarred with the same brush. This is a simplistic good guys/bad guys narrative.
  5. The victim narrative perpetuated by the more hardline Muslims, claiming oppression, will feed into the moderates’ fears that society really is against them, and in the case of a Trump administration, they really would be against them.
  6. This drives moderates into fundamentalism, and into the arms of ISIS, and drives liberals to be more moderate and sympathetic of the hardliners.
  7. Everyone loses.

Hardliners hate Trump by point of fact that he most hates them. But they can most effectively use him, by harnessing the hate he generates and fuels, in order to further their own agenda. Trump is actually the fundamentalists’ best friend. That most terrible of ironies.

There is a tendency, after such terrorist events, to regress into us and them mentality. The in-group is an ideal most supported by conservatives, where liberals prefer to extend their in-group to be more inclusive, more global, even. After London Bridge last night, there might be an urge to react against this by thinking that (a common trope) conservative governments are better at security, as well as beginning to treat Muslims with one broad, very skeptical and otherising brush.

The problem is that this is precisely what the fundamentalists want. They want Muslims themselves to be otherised and persecuted because this fits into their grievance narrative. Nothing will drive moderate and liberals into the arms of the fundamentalists more than non-Muslims otherising and attacking Muslims aas a whole.

I attack Islam quite robustly, but I do it from a theological position. I try to steer away from attacking Muslims as people because they have a whole spectrum of beliefs. That said, I think there is a terminal problem in Islam because Muhammad, the Qu’ran and the Hadith are essentially intolerant entities that provide violence as the answer to moral questions. For me, then, there is a fine line between theologically discrediting a worldview and attacking Muslims per se.

However, the right generally appear not to be so nuanced in their approach; indeed, the left are generally not nuanced in claiming that “X is not  Muslim, but is a terrorist”. But I think the left’s approach (and I am simplifying) is more conducive to social cohesion. Knee-jerk reactions against Muslims across British society will only end badly.

My warning is that if you think these sorts of atrocities are warning shots for the electorate and offer good argument in themselves to vote for parties of the right, be well aware that this will not go well for you. Further alienation of Muslims will only lead to greater division and more fertile ground for extremism.

My caveat is that there may well be no long-term solution to this since the problem is, to a large degree (but certainly not only), theological in nature. In the same way I would not give a razor blade or a gun to a toddler, I would not give the Qu’ran or the Hadith to someone in a vulnerable position who is ripe for searching for meaning and “fitting in” in the intolerant words of those holy texts.


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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...