'La ideología a la que Khalid Masood se convirtió en prisión puede de hecho ser una perversión del Islam, pero es una versión de la misma'
MATT RIDLEY.- 'It is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism. It is a perversion of a great faith.” This is what the prime minister said last week in parliament. While I completely accept that the sins of extremists should never be visited on the vast majority of moderate believers, I am increasingly uneasy about how we handle the connection between religion and extremism. The ideology to which Khalid Masood was converted in prison may indeed be a perversion of Islam, but it is a version of it. We should not shy away from saying so.
After Nice, Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation wrote that saying such terrorism has nothing to do with Islam (as some do) is as dangerous as stating that it has everything to do with Islam. The terrorists in London, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Munich, Berlin, Würzburg, Ansbach, Orlando, San Bernardino, Sydney, Bali, New York, Bombay and many other places have been white, black and brown, rich, poor and middle class, male and female, gay and straight, immigrant and native, young and (now) older. The one thing they have in common is that they had been radicalised by religious preachers claiming to interpret the Koran.
Moreover, while a few sick individuals find within Islam justification for murder and terror, a far larger number find justification for misogyny and intolerance. We must be allowed to say this without being thought to criticise Muslims as people.
Islamist terrorism has become more frequent, but criticism of the faith of Islam, and of religion in general, seems to be becoming less acceptable, as if it were equivalent to racism or blasphemy. The charge of Islamophobia is too quickly levelled. Friday’s press release from Malia Bouattia, president of the National Union of Students, is a case in point. It failed to mention by name the murdered policeman Keith Palmer, and highlighted how Muslims “will be especially fearful of racism”. Race and religion are very different things.
I admire many religious people. I am prepared to accept that being religious can make some individuals better people, though, as a humanist, I also think it is possible and actually preferable to be moral without having faith. I am even open to the possibility that the best defence against extremism is a gentler version of religion rather than none at all — though I need to be convinced. But I think that, rather than there being good religion and bad religion, there is a spectrum of religious belief from virtuous, individualist morality at one end to collectivist, politicised violent terror at the other.