I’m sure you were as shocked as I was by Salman Abedi’s suicide attack last week in Manchester. There can be few horrors worse than losing a child. I can only look into the abyss and shudder.
Here are some – perhaps rather uncomfortable – thoughts on Islamic terrorism.
1) There’s a cancer in the heart of one of the world’s major religions and it’s no good talking about ‘one bad apple.’ Apparently, the security services – Harry to you and me – can’t keep up with the number of ‘potential bombers.’ They can track, what, one to two thousand at the most, and there might be more than that. All living in the U.K. No wonder, even though the chances of becoming a victim of terrorism are still very very small, the media attention has generated a great deal of fear.
One bad apple – or 18 bad apples, is no way to represent what happened back in 2001. A rough assessment of support for the 9/11 bombers in Iran has been calculated at around 30-40%. Sure, very very few would commit the crime, but like St. Paul at the martyr of Stephen, they approved. Millions approved. I know the U.K. isn’t Iran, but extrapolating from the numbers of ‘potential terrorists’ tracked by MI5, that means there are possibly thousands in the U.K. who approved of Salman Abedi’s act. That’s worrying.
2) Why did Salman Abedi choose an Ariana Grande concert? Have you asked that question?
Islamic fundamentalists hate liberal Western culture. It’s an abomination to them. And their attitudes towards British culture were on view in the recent BBC mini-series, Three Girls, which dramatized the cases of child grooming in Rochdale between 2005 and 2013. Nine men, mostly Pakistani, were jailed for up to 25 years for their crimes of child rape and abuse.
While in the dock, one of the men started shouting. He lambasted the entire court, accusing ‘the British’ of their permissive customs, namely allowing our young girls to get drunk, wear skimpy clothing and have sex before marriage. The shocking hypocrisy was not lost on the viewer. The man speaking was guilty of plying several under-age girls with alcohol and then raping them.
But what’s been revealed here? Self-hatred on the part of the man in the dock, that’s for sure. But also his hatred of our liberal British culture.
A couple of days after the Manchester bombing, I went on the Ariana Grande website to find out more about the artist. I watched a video in which two women made out, then a couple started having sex in an office setting, removing clothing with abandon and finally, an elderly couple started to become amorous on a bus. I won’t describe what happened towards the end.
This is the liberal culture which Islamic fundamentalists hate. It’s what Salman Abedi hated. Of that I’m fairly sure. Who knows how deep his own self-hatred went, but in blowing himself up in that location specifically, I’m sure he thought he was attacking our decadent Western culture. Or at least one of its representatives.
What lessons can we learn?
Well, I’m probably preaching to the converted when I say that the only antidote to hate is love. Christians know that love is costly, it hurts and even if we’re misunderstood, it’s always better to love and reach out than cast out and condemn. And if that includes reaching out to Muslims, all the better. Some Muslims are currently attending an Alpha course in my church. They’re ‘seekers’ and open to the truth. We pray they’ll discover the Way, the Truth and the Life. We pray they experience love in our midst.
But what are we to make of the sexually permissive culture which produces Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and the like? Would you take your 8 year-old to see an artist who sings about ‘walking side to side’ because she’s had so much sex, that’s how she walks now? How uncomfortable as a follower of Jesus to find myself horrified by the outrage of a terrorist and yet realize his views on our liberal culture might contain similarities with my own. It’s very unsettling.
It’s enough to make sure you don’t ever write about it on a blog.
We live in a very uncertain world and frankly, even though it might sound like a platitude, what’s more important is that it’s true: Only the God of the universe can provide security. Only he can keep us safe, because he holds all our lives in his hands. He gives and he takes away. And all he does is good, for he himself is goodness by his very nature. And he is love.
So, as Jesus urged so very often . . . don’t be afraid.