Here is the problem when it comes to the aftermath of events such as beheading of one of our soldiers in Woolwich recently. It is not that almost every Muslim community spokesperson didn't come out and say that the beheading was bad. That is what they have done before and will continue to do after – and quite rightly so. It is of course a pretty low place to position the bar. Applauding anyone for coming out against beheading is just a symptom of a malaise: "Hurrah – you're for us keeping our heads."
But the other part of the horror is that there are too many people – far too many people – who although they would condemn this attack in London, might not condemn another such attack were it to have happened somewhere else .
Some years ago, around the time Western hostages were being beheaded in Iraq, I ended up doing a number of telephone interviews for a radio station from somewhere in Africa. It was called "Radio Islam" or the like. Anyhow – the striking thing was that they were always scrupulously polite. They even kept trying to give me a doctorate I didn't have – "so, Doctor Murray," and so on. But my relationship with them ended when they called one day to ask if I would debate beheading. I think it was after the American hostage in Iraq, Nick Berg, had just been beheaded in an al-Qaeda snuff-movie.
I said that although I was happy to come on – as ever – what did they mean when they said "debate"? They surely didn't mean that they had someone who was "for" beheading? The fixer responded in the most meticulously polite tone, "You must understand, Dr. Murray, there are very many people who are for this policy." There was something about "policy" that particularly chilled the blood.
It is that same chill that occurs in the aftermath of Woolwich. I wish the people who condemn the murder of the beheaders in Woolwich were completely removed from the beheading game. But they are not. Among those who have come out – which is the majority of course – not nearly enough are far-away enough from the "pro-beheading policy" for any discerning person's liking.
One of our British Cabinet ministers, for instance, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, spoke at a conference of Islamic student societies in London in March. At this conference she said not only said that Muslim student societies in Britain are part of a poor, set-upon minority who not only have no connection with extremism, but she she actually furthered the narrative by continuing that they are, in fact, "demonized." A matter of hours before her speech, the same organization hosted a campus-speaker who believe at the beheading of people who leave Islam ("apostates") is morally right as well as "painless."
And what about all those heads of British Muslim organisations that signed the '"Istanbul declaration" the other year? This document defended – among other things – the use of violence against the Royal Navy if it helped to prevent arms being imported into Gaza. It is comforting that many of the groups to which these signatories belong have condemned the killing of our soldier in Woolwich. But how do such "leaders" manage to rationalize – or get away with – condemning an attack on one of our soldiers while calling for attacks on our sailors?
Elsewhere, those who have been spending the last decade euphemising their way around the killings of British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, or finding excuses for those who do the killing there, are having a harder time than normal. Or perhaps they cannot believe their luck that nobody is asking them the difficult questions. Instead of just congratulating them on being "against beheading," the press and politicians should ask these "faith-leaders" in which circumstances British servicemen's lives are in fact forefit. They should ask them about their own records. And receive assurances not only that a British serviceman's life in Woolwich is sacred, but that those of all other soldiers of our country -- and our allies' countries -- are viewed in the same way. This is, of course, exactly the time for such questions to be asked in larger quantity and with greater volume.
People who believe in the murder of British troops abroad are trying to pretend that they can find a way to oppose their murder on British streets. Those who believe in the murder of two-year old Israeli children are trying to find a way to explain why the murder of a British man in his twenties is wrong. How can those who claim that killing "infidel" warriors in war zones is a good thing hope people will believe them when they say that killing an "infidel" soldier in London is a bad thing?
A moment of tragedy like this is a moment to do a little learning. Whether we come out from it wiser, or more fooled, will reveal much about the long-term direction in which we are heading.