Is it ever acceptable to tell a lie? If you believe the answer is "no" then this is an area in which you disagree with our political class. The recent terror attack in Kenya -- and the reaction to it -- is only the latest evidence. When it comes to the truth about Islamic violence, our politicians evidently believe the truth is something we, the general public, cannot handle.
The latest example occurred this past weekend, when Islamic militants stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi. At the time of writing it is unclear just how many scores of people they have killed. What we knew from the start was that the culprits separated out Muslims from non-Muslims, allowed the Muslims to go free, and massacred the rest. This was a slaughter along specific religious lines: Muslims slaughtered Christians and other "infidels." As if to reinforce this point, at the same time in Pakistan two suicide bombers blew up dozens of Christians as they left church.
Anyone wishing to observe anything striking in all this was warned off by David Cameron. While the Kenya siege was still going on, and the brutal nature of the selection already known, our PM took to the airwaves. "These appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion -- they don't. They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world. They don't represent Islam or Muslims." Very few people think they do represent all Muslims. But after so many years and so many attacks it is worth questioning why our leaders think the "nothing to do with Islam" lie is a remotely noble one.
At least the Prime Minister did not go as far as the distinguished journalist Sir Simon Jenkins, who blamed shopping malls themselves for the Kenya terror. But Cameron was still standing in a now decade-long tradition of deceit.
Convinced that "Islamophobia" is the real problem, and an anti-Muslim "backlash" the real concern, it has become almost impossible for Western politicians to have any rational discussion about what is both a local and global problem. When four young Muslim suicide bombers blew up the London transport system in July 2005, the smoke had not cleared before the then police-chief, Brian Paddick, told a press conference:"Islam and terrorism do not go together."
Two years later, when Islamic extremists tried to car-bomb a London nightclub and Glasgow airport, the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said what happened was, in fact, so contrary to Islam's teachings that such acts should henceforth be termed "anti-Islamic activity." It does not matter which party the politicians are from (Jacqui Smith is Labour, Cameron a Conservative), the lie is always the same.
In May this year, when Drummer Lee Rigby was decapitated in South London by men shouting "Allahu Akhbar" ("Allah is Greater"), David Cameron immediately tried to scotch any unhelpful inferences by stating, "There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act." London Mayor Boris Johnson assisted by stressing that it was "completely wrong" to associate Islam in any way with the killings.
One positive interpretation of this response is that since, with each attack, the fever-pitch of the politicians -- their absolute insistence that this has nothing to do with Islam -- increases, perhaps they intuit that their lie is getting ever harder to sustain. They must sense they are losing us.
It is unlikely, after this latest massacre in Kenya, that more people believe Islam is a wholly quietist and peaceful religion this week than they did the week before. Likewise, in May, after everyone in Britain woke up to blanket front-pages of two wild-eyed maniacs covered in blood, waving meat-cleavers, would you imagine that more people believed Islam to be a religion of peace that morning than the day before? Or a couple fewer?
In some ways you have to feel sorry for the politicians. They simply do not know how to speak to this difficult issue. They see that we have millions of Muslims in our countries. They also see -- rightly -- that the vast majority have absolutely no connection to such acts of violence. And although they undoubtedly over-worry about the potential of a popular "backlash" against Muslims, the longer the problem goes unaddressed, the more it appears that theirs is not an entirely unfounded fear.
Yet what the politicians cannot say -- and a very small number of public figures are willing to even hint at -- is that the actions of terrorists in Pakistan, Kenya and around the world on a daily basis most certainly are connected to Islam. In particular they are connected to a war of interpretation that has raged within Islam for 1400 years.
Islam is not a pacifist religion. Its founder was not a Quaker. People like to make comparisons at this point, so one might as well join in. Allow me to put it at its clearest: The history of Christianity has been quite bloody already. But it would have been far bloodier still if, rather than telling his followers to love their neighbour, Jesus had ordered them to "slay the infidel wherever you find them," as the Koran directs Muslims to do. What if Jesus, rather than telling his followers to "turn the other cheek," had -- as Mohammed did -- slayed and beheaded his enemies personally?
Does this mean that all Muslims follow Islam's violent strictures? Of course not. The Koran and sayings of Mohammed contain peaceful, as well as violent, admonitions. A complex battle continues over which interpretation of these texts and traditions should win out, and where and when. It is not only mistaken, but downright untrue, to pretend the problem is not there. The truth that politicians believe we are not ready for is that, although the extremists have a wicked and -- for everyone -- obviously disastrous interpretation of Islam, it is not an implausible interpretation. The extremists do not get where they get to from nowhere. Unfortunately for the politicians, an increasing number of voters can see this.
There are many of the opinion that this problem should be out in the open, discussed and tackled. Not least in order to assist those Muslim scholars who are preaching against the extremists. Many will only jump if they are persuaded that they must in order to safeguard the future of their religion. Rather than apply such pressure, and provide some assistance, our politicians have chosen another way. They have chosen to lie. There are only two ways that lie will stop. When the Islamists prove them wrong more markedly on their own doorstep. Or when popular anger tells the politicians that their lies are transparent. It is interesting to consider which eventuality will be more uncomfortable for them.