There was some commentary at the weekend about the Munich atrocity and recent incidents of indiscriminate violence which reveal both the best and worst of UK media coverage of acts of ‘terrorism’.
In the Mirror, Kaye Adams, took aim at the former editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie’s lamentable provocation against journalist Fatima Manji for just doing her job. Adams criticises his taking exception to Manji’s reporting on the attack in Nice while wearing her headscarf as an example of the “toxic cauldron of irrational hatred” which permeates kneejerk reactions.
Noting the media’s tendency to hunt for a headline, Adams cautions against rushing to blame all Muslims for the Munich atrocity amid news of a kidnap plot at the RAF base at Marham in Norfolk.
Adams wrote: “It would be naive to deny that a radical and corrupt form of Islam, or a reaction to it, does seem to be the common denominator.
“But to start pointing the finger at all Muslims is as sensible as pointing out most rapists are men.”
Her words of necessary caution, to avoid stirring prejudice against Muslim communities, were ignored by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was criticised for leaping to a default position and blaming the Munich attack on “global phenomenon and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at the source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the Middle East – and also of course around the world.”
But Johnson’s words seem mild in comparison to the venom espoused in Rod Liddle’s column in the Sunday Times yesterday. Showing little regard for facts or indeed, caution when reporting on incidents where information is still coming to light and the full picture unknown, Liddle launches into a tirade about the “collective delusion” of liberals who fail to label “murderous Islamism” as the enemy in our midst.
Liddle writes, “They yearn for this relentless cavalcade of murders and maimings to be entirely unconnected to either Islamism or the catastrophic policy of allowing in, unchecked, hundreds of thousands of usually culturally averse people from beyond the Continent. And, indeed, the equally problematic multiculturalism to which the European liberal elite still clings.
“So, for example, an armed Muslim bloke murders at least 84 people in Nice by mowing them down with a lorry. We — you, me, ordinary people — knew he was an Islamist long before the broadcast media were inclined to accept the fact. And further, assumed that was why the murders had been committed. The liberal elite here and abroad begged to differ, however.”
Quite why “you, me, ordinary people” would regard Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel an “Islamist” when his relatives described him as someone “who drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs” is not clear. Perhaps the “collective delusion” Liddle prefers to identify elsewhere has descended closer to home?
He goes on, “Whenever this sort of thing happens liberals suddenly become Koranic experts and insist that it can have had no religious connection. And yet very often it patently does.
“Just as the teenager who started hacking at people with an axe on a German train was also motivated by Islam. He may have been deranged but he was also a fervent Muslim and that is why he started trying to decapitate infidels.”
Might we also infer from Breivik’s manifesto and his references to Christianity that he was a “fervent Christian” even if “deranged”?
It seems Liddle is unconcerned about the purported motive for murder, in the case of the Afghan refugee and the Wuerzburg train attack “revenge” for the death of a friend killed in Afghanistan, preferring to privilege the description of the teenage refugee as a “devout Muslim” over all other possible explanatory factors.
It is precisely the presumption that Islam lies at the core of instincts to murder innocents that blinds us to the actual causes of extremist violence; politics, mental health, economic insecurity, and the types of extremism that stir in our societies. For a short while, the murder of Batley and Spen MP, Jo Cox, reminded us of the costs of discounting far right and other forms of extremism which fester and are responsible for the greater proportion of acts of political violence in Europe. It is a travesty that such an exercise in introspection should be so short lived and some commentators far too eager to return to a tired and false narrative that lays the blame for all of this at Islam’s door.