Yesterdays terrorist attack and the brutal murder of an off duty soldier on the streets of Woolich has inevitably led to a widespread discussion not only on the Internet and in the general media about the place and presence of Islam in society, but also took place in workplaces, pubs and peoples homes. The questions that are being asked include a debate on how, in a modern, open and democratic society how such a sadistic act could have even been contemplated when there are so many legitimate and peaceful ways to make a political protest.
Its' not as if this kind of act is limited in Britain to the extremist sections of "Islamism". There was also the Soho "nail bomber" who targeted gays as part of a campaign of hate inspired by the indigenous far-right around the BNP and other neo-Nazi boneheads who inhabit the political fringe.
And then of course in Norway there was Brevik. Norway is probably one of the most tolerant and inclusive nations on the planet. Where did he spring from?
With this in mind I read at first with concern and then with a sense of relief about the publication of an Independent report on the Rochdale child sex scandal in The Times this morning. Given the current climate it might have been considered a little imprudent with the inevitable backlash against the Muslim community which invariably accompanies terrorist atrocities.
Whilst child abuse takes place in all communities regardless of religion race or colour, it is important to note that the failure to act was in part due to the fear of a racial backlash motivated by so-called "political correctness" on the part of some council staff. If we are to truly integrate the various communities into mainstream society then we must not be afraid to tackle difficult and criminal activities undertaken by men (and women) just because of ill thought out "value judgements" made by those who are responsible for the welfare of others.
The girls in this case (and others that have come to light) have been let down by the politically correct crowd that seem to predominate in social services and other parts of the state and political establishment. This must not happen again.
A crime is a crime no matter what race, religion or colour an individual is. The law must apply equally to all or it will lose general acceptability.
The reason I find myself with hope this evening is because of something that was going on whilst travelling home from work. Stuck in the inevitable traffic jam that stretches between Putney and Hammersmith there was a quiet, but audible discussion going on behind me between two young Muslim women (hijabs et al) about the nature of the soul and quoting from the Koran about "Gods" role with humanity.
As an atheist I would normally despair as I do when approached by the Jehovah Witnesses or suchlike but this time it occurred to me that actually Britain is predominately a tolerant society and these two women felt able to discuss such views without fear in the public place. And so they should.
I was proud to be reminded that we do have a broad society which whilst far from perfect (will it ever be) is a place people feel free to talk.
That means we need to stand up against those who wish to destroy such freedoms. No one has a problem campaigning against the BNP or the EDL, so isn't it time we also campaign against the Islamists, the Salafists and their ilk that spread a message of hate that is just as bad . if not worse as they hijack a religion to do so?
If we truly are to tackle the very real issue of Islamic extremism then we must not be afraid to tackle the criminal activity (i.e. hate speech and racism) promoted by these bigots (and that is what they are). That means there is no need to tread on eggshells around the Muslim "community" (and there is not just one, there are many) and do some straight talking.
Freedom of speech means that everyone has a right to their own opinion. We all have a right to express ourselves without fear of retribution by either the state or the self appointed zealots who seek to impose their distorted world views on the rest of us.
Promotion of hate and violence is criminal. Those who promote such views must be combated. There can be no appeasement. Remember what happened last time we tried that.