The public reaction to the Finsbury Park incident reminds me of Russia, circa 1903. Now historical parallels are never quite exact, but they may be useful for illustrative purposes. This one certainly is.
In that year a wave of 600 anti-Jewish pogroms swept the Pale of Settlement. Kishinev and Kiev were hit especially hard. Thousands of houses looted, thousands of people beaten up, thousands of women raped, 48 people dead in Kishinev alone.
By the time the pogroms ended in 1906, 2,500 Jews had been killed, most of them in Odessa. (Russian chauvinists like Solzhenitsyn always precede such numerals with the word ‘only’.) But meanwhile it was 1903, and, in the wake of Kishinev and Kiev, the Jews of Gomel knew it was their turn next.
In preparation, they organised armed self-defence groups, which sprang a nasty surprise on those Russian patriots. When the marauding mob rampaged through the streets of Gomel, it was met with pistol shots.
As a result, ‘only’ 25 Jews died, and about as many murderous thugs. Now the term ‘moral equivalence’ hadn’t been coined yet, but, on the basis of the public reaction in the Russian press, it should have been.
Most papers insisted that both sides were equally to blame. Some, that the Jews even more so because they had fired the first shots. Phrases like “violence breeds violence” streamed off newspaper pages, along with regrets that the Jews hadn’t absorbed the Christian notion of turning the other cheek.
The subsequent court proceedings reinforced that line of thought. Eighteen Jews defending themselves were sentenced to penal servitude, and only 12 Russian thugs leading the rampage.
As I said, the parallel with the Finsbury Park aftermath isn’t quite exact. But neither is it nonexistent.
Unlike those Gomel Jews, Darren Osborne (no relation to George, as far as I know) wasn’t in any immediate personal danger – he wasn’t pre-empting or warding off an attack. However, he was justified in feeling threatened as a member of the group routinely and indiscriminately targeted by Muslim terrorists – just as Jews were targeted in Russia circa 1903.
That feeling he had, however justified it might have been, doesn’t excuse his criminal action. But it certainly mitigates it.
I’m not a physical coward – growing up in the tough neighbourhood otherwise known as Russia didn’t allow me that option. But nowadays I tense up slightly every time I find myself in a Central London crowd. And – call me a racist and report me to the Commission for Racial Equality – I automatically examine every young Muslim coming my way.
Is he carrying some work tools or a gun in that satchel? Is it food or a bomb in his Sainsbury’s bag? Unlike Mr Osborne, I’m a civilised man, so I don’t go beyond looking with apprehension. But I can understand his action, even if I can’t excuse it.
It’s not Islamophobia that has put the electricity of fear and tension into the atmosphere, but Islamic terrorism. So surely our response to the Finsbury Park attack should distinguish between action and reaction.
Both may be reprehensible, but it takes a broken moral compass to suggest they are equally reprehensible. Or else it takes a conscience warped by what some call political correctness and what could more appropriately be called our civilisation’s suicide wish.
This is a dangerous disease, and our prime minister is showing advanced symptoms of it. She assigned an equal measure of “hatred and evil” both to the Finsbury Park attack and the numerous and more deadly acts of Muslim terrorism that had provoked it.
The former, said Mrs May, is “every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life” as the latter. That’s why “We will stop at nothing to defeat it.”
Nothing, Mrs May? That’s good to hear. So let’s begin by admitting that we’re at war – not with alienated loaners on cannabis, not with Islamists, not with Islamofascists, not with Islamic fundamentalists, but with Islam.
This war has been going on for 1,400 years, and it has had lulls alternating with flare-ups. We’re going through a flare-up now, and unless HMG does something about it, people like Darren Osborne (no relation to George) will.
If they start doing it en masse, that could spell disintegration of public order, with vigilante justice replacing the rule of law. And then, “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”
When Enoch Powell thus quoted Virgil in a similar context, he was instantly vilified, and our progressive press still sputters spittle at the “rivers of blood” speech. But, even though Powell didn’t have specifically Muslims in mind, he saw the dangers of multi-culti diversity.
His moral compass hadn’t gone haywire, as Mrs May’s has. If she really will stop at nothing to defeat violence, she should start by stopping the Muslim action first, and the reaction to it second. This isn’t just a temporal sequence, but a moral pecking order.