Muslims have earned the right to be trusted. Perhaps not in everything they say or do, but whenever there are warnings that they might blow something up, we must take such warnings on faith.
Sri Lankan authorities didn’t. The police there were warned about the impending attacks a fortnight in advance, but did nothing.
Now they have 290 reasons to acknowledge the error of their ways: that’s how many people were murdered in synchronised suicide attacks on churches where Christians celebrated Easter, and hotels where visitors, mostly Christians, stayed.
Add to this another 500 reasons, equal to the number of people also injured in the explosions, some of whom will doubtless die, and Sri Lankan police must now realise they were wrong in their lackadaisical treatment of those security tips.
Now their government spokesman has treated us to the earth-shattering revelation that the bombers had links to some unidentified international terrorist organisations. However, those responsible for carrying out the attacks have been tentatively identified, as admittedly a local jihadist group, National Thowheed Jamath.
The nature of the said international organisation wasn’t specified; the word ‘jihadist’ only appeared in the reports many hours after the explosions, and I have yet to see the adjective ‘Muslim’ mentioned anywhere. However, one can make the connection without much effort: after all, one doesn’t hear much of Methodist or Mormon jihadists.
We can make all the connections we wish, but the media won’t help us. The word ‘jihadist’ is nicely limiting, while the word ‘Muslim’ is dangerously broad. Bandy it about too much, and this may shatter the pristine image of the religion of peace we like to cherish in our hearts.
Since our media are committed to the preservation of that peaceful image, they’ll use particular rather than general descriptions: fundamentalists, jihadists, extremists or at a pinch Islamists. Never Muslims – as if the religion had nothing to do with it, the religion, may one add, that has been at war with Christianity ever since the first sabre-waving swarms burst out of the red-hot Arabian deserts 1,400 years ago.
Ask the hacks about such reticence and they’ll tell you that not all Muslims are suicide bombers. Fair enough, they aren’t. If they were, the problem would be solved in one generation, although the cost would be exorbitant.
Moreover, most Muslims aren’t even belligerent fanatics. By the same token, most Germans weren’t Nazis, nor most Russians communists. And even most Nazis and communists didn’t kill or torture anyone personally.
I’m sure that thought provided much consolation to the millions killed by the Nazis, the tens of millions killed by the communists – and some 300 million who have been murdered over the centuries to the accompaniment of deafening shrieks of ‘Allahu akbar!’
At the time when Christians were building the great cathedrals whose architectural genius has never been even remotely approached since, their terminology wasn’t as nuanced as ours. They didn’t care what percentage of Muslims harassed, robbed and killed Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land.
They just sold all their possessions, left their families behind and joined the Crusaders’ hosts, to fight and probably die in the Outremer to protect their people. Their definition of ‘their people’ was broad: all who espoused Christianity, regardless of their race, place of birth or native language.
St Bernard helpfully came up with the term exonerating the violence they were about to commit: malicide, the killing of evil. That dovetailed with the earlier doctrine of just war enunciated by St Augustine and developed by St Thomas Aquinas: violence was wrong – unless it prevented a greater wrong.
Nor were the Crusaders involved in actuarial calculations of the percentage of Muslims who actually cut pilgrims’ throats, even though they were doubtless aware that it was relatively small. They just felt physically the pain of their fellow Christians and were prepared to die to prevent that pain or, barring that, avenge it.
One gets the impression that such acute, visceral empathy is no longer widespread in what used to be Christendom. We aren’t going to do battle to save Christians abused and murdered all over the Third World. Why, we aren’t even going to identify their abusers and murderers by their real designation.
We choose to forget that mass murder always has some scriptural justification: that hand wielding a knife, an axe or a pistol may grow limp without it. Bolshevik murderers followed The Communist Manifesto as faithfully as Nazi murderers followed Mein Kampf – and as faithfully as Muslim murderers follow the Koran.
Yet we aren’t bashful about saying ‘Bolsheviks’ or ‘Nazis’. We don’t point out that not all communists were Lubyanka executioners or Kolyma overseers, nor that only some Nazis operated those gas chambers. But we can’t bring ourselves to saying ‘Muslims’.
So let’s be brave and declare openly that those who wish us dead aren’t just fundamentalists, extremists, fanatics or even Islamists. They’re Muslims, and they can be trusted to kill again and again – unless given a compelling reason not to.
Pope Urban II, ring your office.