A soldier dead, a family in mourning, a nation outraged and it feels like the 1970s. This is not a good place to be.
Two Islamist terrorists commit a brutal murder on a London street and hang around waiting for the cops in the hope that they will become martyrs. The unfortunate young man who was slain though isn't the real target. To the killers' mind he is just a necessity. The real target is you. Me. All of us in the United Kingdom. The real aim is to generate hatred of Muslims.
The plan is simple. Extremists of all sides wish to gain support and come to represent their host community. They tell their own would-be supporters that the rest of the nation hates them already, either secretly or openly, that they will never be accepted and will forever be second class citizens. Then an outrage such as yesterday's murder is committed in the hope and expectation of a backlash from the general population.
If violence is the result, so much the better. But violence is rare: what matters is the atmosphere; the words and attitudes following the outrage. Which of us today are angry? The vast majority I am sure. The big question though is how will you personally vent your anger? Will you repost hate blogs, calling for all Muslims to get out of Britain? Will you talk in private, grumbling how Muslims never will be British? Perhaps while walking down the street you might say something hurtful to a Muslim or even just throw one a sour look. Or will you realise that somebody is trying to manipulate you and to do any of these things would bring joy to the dark hearts of murderers?
The Muslim communities are the main target. It is dreadful to hear that some evil act is committed in the name of the God one loves. Something so abhorrent is a desecration of sincerely-held belief. But that is just one level. The idea is that all hands should be turned against them, their families and communities become victims of bigotry and violence and that the words of the terrorists should be proved correct.
It is too easy to fall into the trap set by extremists. Most of us probably don't know any people who would support yesterday's actions but if you do, how should one react? A tricky question but an atheist friend of mine reminded me the other day of this:
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21)
May the young man killed rest in peace. May his family find, with time, some kind of peace. And may those who preach and practice hate be overpowered by goodness.