Our ritual response to Islamist terror

Nov 19, 2021 by

by Simon Cottee, UnHerd:

Why is the first step always to genuflect before the Muslim community?

Our responses to terrorist incidents have a ritual quality — they serve what sociologists call a “sense-making” purpose.

One ritualised way of responding to an atrocity is to blame and punish the terrorist’s family and the wider community to which he belongs. We wisely try to avoid this — as well as being counter to our belief in individual responsibility, punitive revenge is usually counterproductive.

Western societies still seem to go down this path if the perpetrator is a right wing white male. Thus when Brenton Tarrant, an Australian Right-wing extremist, murdered 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, the dominant media narrative was that Tarrant was part of a deeper reservoir of hatred and toxicity that runs through the institutions and culture of his class. Omer Aziz, writing in The New York Times, even sought to suggest that Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson were somehow part of the causal story of the massacre.

In the case of Islamist terror attacks however, our official response is even more convoluted and morally unclear: we condemn the perpetrator and his actions, but we cower before the community from which he comes.

Emad al Swealmeen carried out his attack on Sunday at around 11am, and it didn’t take long for the ritual to commence. On Monday, Merseyside Police (South Liverpool) tweeted out the following message: “Our community policing team has been out today visiting local leaders and faith groups to reassure them of our presence on the streets following the incident outside @LiverpoolWomens. We’re looking forward to visiting other places of worship across the religious spectrum soon.” You could be forgiven for thinking that Swealmeen had attacked a place of worship instead of detonating an explosive device outside a woman’s hospital.

Read also: So, are we cancelling Azeem Rafiq? by Brendan O’Neill, spiked
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