However, contained within the Koran and the Bible are tracts that can be perverted by a willing mind to ‘justify’ violent acts. The 23-year-old engineering student who yesterday walked onto an idyllic Tunisian beach and murdered 39 innocent people was, apparently, one of those whose understanding of the teachings of Islam had been perverted to such an extent that he believed his cowardly and horrific act was his God’s will.
He may have believed he was striking-back at the West, at countries that have invaded predominantly Islamic nations and killed innocent Muslims, but there is nothing that can justify the further slaughter of innocents.
The killer did not care that those he callously murdered were not responsible for US or UK foreign policy: they may even have opposed the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the long occupation of Afghanistan. However, even if individuals sitting on a beach in Tunisia did actually back military action as proposed by the governments of America and Britain, those beliefs do not carry a penalty of summary execution. There is no justification for killing innocent people.
I marched in 2003, opposing plans to invade and occupy Iraq. I frequently am a critic of US and UK foreign policy. I am on public record calling for British forces to be brought home from Iraq once the war started. Despite this, I could easily have been one of the westerners sitting yesterday on that Tunisian beach, and just as easily I could have been murdered by a young man carrying an AK47 assault rifle, a young man who actually didn’t care about my beliefs or those of people simply trying to relax during their holiday in the sun. This was not a reprisal attack on western governments because of their actions in predominantly Muslim countries – it was callous, brutal, cold-blooded, cowardly murder.
Those who pervert the teachings of Islam and persuade individuals to carry-out atrocities against innocent people are not carrying out their God’s will: they are not valiantly avenging perceived sleights on Islam or the Prophet Mohammed. In fact, they are nothing more than murdering gangsters hiding behind a holy book that, actually, condemns their actions.
Innocent people were slaughtered as they dozed in the North African sun: it is understandable that many in the UK will be shocked and angry over what happened yesterday. As usual, the flames of anger, even hatred, will be flamed by the right-wing media in Britain, but we need to apply some perspective to how we react to the Tunisian killings.
Despite claims by Islamic State, the murders were not carried out in the name of Islam. To blame every Muslim, every believer in the teachings of Mohammed, would be like blaming every white American for last week’s murder of black people in a South Carolina church.
Islamic State believes in a sick perversion of the teachings of Islam. The terrorist organisation uses aggressive US and UK foreign policy to persuade many Muslims that they and their religion are under attack from the West and that, therefore, all westerners are legitimate targets.
We need to understand what motivates Islamic State and we need to be aware of the reaction they want to their terrorist actions. They want us to turn on Muslims who live peacefully in our communities. They would then hope to ‘radicalise’ more young impressionable Muslims and turn them into deluded, cold-blooded, murdering cowards, like the young man who yesterday wandered onto a beach in Tunisia and slaughtered 39 innocent holidaymakers.
We need to acknowledge our country’s role in creating the situation that has led to UK citizens becoming targets of terrorists. We need to understand that Islamic State does not represent the peaceful religion of Islam. We also need to recognise that the young man who yesterday took an assault rifle onto a holiday beach in Tunisia is not a martyr; he is not a defender of Islam or of Muslims in states attacked by the West. He is nothing more than a coward who brutally attacked and murdered unarmed, innocent people.