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Monday 22nd May saw the worst terror attack in the UK for twelve years, with 22 killed and 64 injured. Perhaps not coincidentally, it took place on the fourth anniversary of the brutal butchering of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich. The Manchester attack was more sophisticated than most recent attacks, carried out by a suicide bomber who deliberately targeted teenage girls at a crowded concert.
Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones, or who have been injured or affected in other ways by this attack. It is sickening to see the pictures and to read of what happened. Everywhere people are asking, how many more attacks will there be, and what can be done to stop them?
Links to Isis
The attacker Salman Abedi, only 22 years old, must have believed that he was doing a service to God in killing and maiming so many people. How deceived. We are told that he was known to the security services, but not viewed as high risk. He is likely to have been acting with others. Bomb makers are regarded as too valuable to blow themselves up. He was born in Manchester, and recently returned from a trip to Libya. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has said that he probably travelled to Syria and had proven links with Isis. Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.
I wrote last week about Tom Holland's Channel 4 documentary about Isis. Holland was brave enough to ask what motivates Isis, and honest enough to conclude that they self-consciously draw on Islamic scriptures, texts and episodes from Muhammad's life to justify what they are doing. The attack at a concert in Manchester is reminiscent of the attack in the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015. Strict Muslims believe that music is haram, or forbidden in Islam, citing multiple texts to prove the point. Therefore, an attack at a music concert does not risk killing any devout Muslims and provides a useful target to kill or maim lots of people. The same sort of logic would apply to the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub last year.
Who is the enemy?
Today thousands of armed soldiers are deployed on our streets, but no one wants to admit that we are at war. No one that is, except for Isis and those with their ideology. Politicians refer to 'terrorism' as if that is the enemy. As I have said before, terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology. To say we are fighting terrorism is a bit like saying we are fighting bombs. The other enemy that politicians will name is 'extremism'. This is also vacuous and meaningless. Are we fighting 'extreme' tolerance? Well perhaps that is the problem.
We are facing an ideology that seeks nothing less than to turn Britain into an Islamic state ruled by sharia law. This ideology is Islam. Not all Muslims will seek to achieve this by violent means, in fact the vast majority will not. But those that do have plenty of texts and the example of Muhammad to justify their actions. They may also be supported by larger numbers who sympathise with the goal, if not the means.
Defeating the ideology
Theresa May was quite right to say that we need "to take on and defeat the ideology that often fuels this violence." It is telling, though, that she made no mention of Islam in her speech. This is much better than claiming that such acts have 'nothing to do with Islam,' as we have heard so many times before. Still, we have no hope of defeating an ideology that we are afraid to even name, let alone understand or criticise.
I searched for mention of Islam in the manifestos of the major parties. The Conservative manifesto is to be commended for its mention of "Islamist extremism", though this is the only mention of Islam in the document, and it is neither defined nor explained. 'Extremism' is mentioned 9 times altogether, and is also not defined. Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos only mention 'Islam' in the context of 'Islamophobia'. They seem more concerned to protect this ideology than to tackle it.
Last year, police staged a mock terrorist attack in the Arndale centre in Manchester. I am sure that the responsiveness of the emergency services was greatly helped by training like this. During the mock attack, the actor playing the part of the terrorist shouted 'Allahu Akbar' ('God is great'). Multiple complaints were made about Islamophobia which resulted in the police apologising for linking the exercise with Islam in this way.
Those who denounce 'Islamophobia' show that they care more about protecting Islam from criticism and mockery than about protecting their own daughters from rape and violence. Security services must be able to evaluate and understand the threat from radical Islam without being accused of Islamophobia for even thinking about it. We can never defeat the ideology without criticising it, and indeed mocking it. Without free speech, including the right to offend someone's deeply held beliefs, Islam will only continue to grow.
The fruit of abandoning Christianity
Salman Abedi attended Didsbury Mosque in Manchester. This Mosque is actually a converted church which was sadly sold to Muslims in 1967. To me this is an image of where this country is. A century ago, Christians sacrificially gave to buy land and build a place to worship Jesus. They built something that would last for generations and provide a legacy for the gospel. Fifty years ago, that building was sold to those who preach a false gospel. The fruit of this false gospel is the attack we saw this week.
In parallel with this, our whole society has abandoned Christianity and opened up our nation to the ever-increasing influence of Islam in politics, finance, fashion, animal slaughter, and even sharia courts. Any criticism of this is denounced as Islamophobic. Yet, the fruit is not only terror attacks, not only rape gangs, not only 'honour' killings, not only thousands of girls suffering FGM, not only segregated communities where sharia rules, but even our whole society feeling cowed into never criticising Islam. How has it managed to achieve such a silencing of criticism in spite of all the obvious bad fruit that it has brought?
Radical Christians required
The ideology of Islam will never be defeated by multiculturalism, or relativism, these perspectives have no grounds on which to criticise another worldview. Secularism is also unlikely to succeed as most people recognise the existence of God and will freely criticise the intolerance of secular ideas. It is Christianity that will defeat Islam. Christians need to have the courage and boldness to criticise Islam and proclaim the truthfulness of Christianity and its benefits for society.
"The only effective response to radical Islam is radical Christianity. Reformation starts with individuals. Passionate prayer fuels public proclamation. We all need to be prayerful in private and courageously unashamed in public. Every one of us has a part to play in this battle. Will you play yours?"Related Links:France's Macron seeks extended emergency powers after Manchester attack (Reuters)