When I first launched my Taking The Myth podcast as a companion piece to the regular interviews, the idea was to bring listeners a regular dose of skeptical discussion without an emphasis on religion. The odd deconstruction of homeopathic claims here, a debunking of a “ghost sighting” there coupled with some reporting on scientific innovation.
I didn’t foresee just how intense Europe’s collision with fundamentalist Islam would become, and as a result the show has more or less become the “what horrible thing has been done in the name of Islam this week” show. I make no apologies for being preoccupied with one of the most pressing issues of our time, but at the end of the latest episode released yesterday, I tentatively asked my co-host Iram what atrocities we could expect before our next opportunity to record, such is their depressing frequency. A podcast on Islamic extremism can unfortunately become out of date in the time it takes you to hit “release.”
Well, as it stands, we have had a man arrested outside an army base in the West Midlands in possession of knives and an axe, a man has driven a car of explosives into a police car in France and a vehicle has been deliberately plowed into a crowd of Muslim worshippers in London. That’s what has transpired since hitting “release,” which is barely 24 hours ago. I’m not even sure where we will be by the time I publish this piece.
What separates this last act of terror from the others it that it was not an act of Islamic extremism, but rather an act of anti-Muslim terrorism. Today, it has been reported that Darren Osborne, 47 of Cardiff drove a rented truck into worshippers outside Finsbury Park Mosque. One person has been killed, with ten others injured. Two of which have been described as “serious.” The suspect was reported to have said “I’m going to kill Muslims” upon his apprehension.
In a remarkable display of restraint in an unthinkable situation, a number of Muslims at the scene shielded the suspect from an angry crowd until the police arrived.
I’ve been incredibly critical of the “backlash” narrative in the past. It’s a narrative that somehow takes centre stage each time a Muslim kills large scores of non-Muslims. I’ve always felt it was fairly outrageous to focus on a potential secondary issue that never seemed to actually manifest when we have a very really primary issue still bleeding us in the face.
In a densely populated, mostly non-Muslim society, I’ve always been surprised that no-one has carried out a like-for-like attack on Muslim citizens. Surely in such a large population of non-Muslims, we must have a statistically sufficient quota of violent anti-Muslim lunatics with some terrible ideas about “justice”? But no comparable “backlash” against Muslims ever seemed to come. This reality has always been a great source of relief and pride for me. British society was just better and stronger than the nefarious elements that hoped to destroy it.
I have to let go of that pride today as it appears a British non-Muslim has done the unthinkable and attempted to murder large scores of innocent Muslim civilians, seemingly due to one single fact: they are Muslim. We will know more details about Darren Osborne and his motivations in the coming days. My only hope is that this is a one-off atrocity, rather than a sign of things to come.
There can be no equivocation on this act of terror. Any talk of “legitimate grievances” or “an eye for an eye” will not do. This inexcusable violence must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. No “ifs.” No “buts.”
If you catch anyone trying to justify this disgusting act of terror, don’t let them get away with it. Please speak up. It has never been more necessary to be vocally critical of Islamism. Likewise, we must not be complacent about the hate that appears to be boiling over on the anti-Muslim far-right. Stand strong in the middle of both extremes and refuse to give an inch to either.
This piece originally appeared on Stephen Knight’s website, www.gspellchecker.com