A British soldier was decapitated by a Muslim in South London in 2011. Police arrived quickly and fired 8 rounds seriously injuring one of the suspects. The media went into overdrive, sensationalizing the event. The then Prime Minister David Cameron called an emergency council meeting termed COBRA (Cabinet Office briefing room A).
Muslim organisations distanced themselves from the atrocities whilst their communities nervously awaited the fall out whilst reciting well-rehearsed lines of condemnation.
"I killed him because he kills Muslims over there, and I am fed up that people kill Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan" and "You think politicians are going to die?
No, it's going to be the average guy - like you - and your children.
So, get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so you can all live in peace."
A brief review of the history of similar attacks highlights similar explanations by perpetrators. The courtroom testimony of Dr Bilal Abdulla for instance, the doctor who attempted to blow up Glasgow airport, explained how the destruction of his country, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, and the theft of natural resources shows the reasons we are being provided may not only be incorrect, but seriously misleading.
The difference in activities between those who undertake violence and those who do not, appears to stem from confidence in or disillusionment with the political processes and whether they can effect change, importantly when they are in conflict with entrenched interests.
To stop this cycle of violence, we must get beyond the political rhetoric and consider the causes - something that is missing from this debate.
For decades the government battled with the IRA, labelling them terrorists, blocking their funding and implementing security measure after security measure. Peace ultimately came when their grievances were addressed.
So what are the grievances?
Colonialism and its consequences in a nutshell. The new elites that emerged following reformations and revolutions in Europe left behind a trail of atrocities in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia. This was not exceptional but systemic, committed generation after generation, century after century.
The journal American Rationalist noted:
"Today we teach history to schoolchildren under the euphemisms "Western Expansion" and "Indian Wars" when addressing property appropriation and mass murder. Rarely, if ever, are the terms genocide or land snatching rendered in schoolbooks regarding the Old West."
The division of the Ottoman Empire by the British and French after World War I, with a multitude of conflicting promises made to various parties, opened the darkest, bloodiest and impoverished era the region had ever seen.
The deep-seated religious conflict and hatred witnessed in Sudan, Palestine or India were politically contrived amongst peoples who had coexisted peacefully for centuries during colonial rule.
This is not to justify terrorism, by state actors or individual actors, but an attempt to understand it. Without such an understanding there can be no meaningful discussion and no prevention of similar if not worse atrocities here or abroad.
One needs to look at the occupations, illegal wars, sanctions, economic exploitation, debt and support of tyrants and dictators across North Africa, Middle East and Asia to understand why so many exhibit anger and negativity.
There is a violent pathology amongst Western elites, historically emerging from wealthy landowners (who had benefited from the forced land enclosure movement) and merchants (who had benefited from genocides and misappropriation of land/resources in the Americas). This pathology is manifested in an amoral ideology, centred on self-interest, transmitted between generations of elites, reproducing similar destructive patterns from continent to continent, civilisation to civilisation.
Therein is the answer and explanation to the "why they hate us" question. Something George Bush's superficial "they hate our freedoms" and Blair's "we did nothing to them" fail to explain. The current debate refuses to engage with these issues – instead bellicose rhetoric and clamping down on critical voices along with diminishing freedoms increases all of our insecurity.
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