Winston Churchill once said:
“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to ‘war-fever’ must realize that once the signal is given,he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events”.
I often wish that someone of his wisdom was around in government today,but more on this later. The events in Oslo and Utoya have both shocked and appalled the Western world,and probably changed forever their understanding of the challenges facing multi-cultutalism in our truly global world.
Rightly or wrongly, many have until now seen religious extremism as an exclusively Islamic idea. Now,secular opinion will have changed. First off,the atrocities in Norway had as little to do with any form of real Christianity as I do with salad. In the same breath, Al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Islam is equally as heretical and unreal.
However, the bombing and subsequent shootings have raised many questions. Using acts of terror, viewing the challenges of dealing with multi-culturalism as a war rather than a policy- these ideas are no longer confined to the West’s view of Middle Eastern extremism- now both sides have camps on the far sides of a religious political spectrum. Extremist Islamophobia has been on the rise, seen in recent demonstrations carried out by the English Defence League, but this is a marked step forward.
To what degree did the Western leaders foresee this ten years ago, at the start of the twentieth century and the outbreak of the war on terror? Did they realise it would lead to uprisings from within,to almost a civil war? This attack was not aimed at Muslims, but, as Richard Galpin from the BBC had stated, Breivik “launched his meticulously planned assault on what he saw as the root cause of the “problem” -the governing Labour party and its liberal immigration policies”.
And, to return to the previous point, did Bush, Blair and Co. understand the War on Terror would cause battle lines to be drawn between Christianity and Islam (not for the first time sadly!) without the main strands of either religion actually coming into conflict?
The answer? Probably not. As Churchill said, war leads to the unforseeable. No one could have anticipated this, and few will know where to go next. The challenges facing all world leaders to tackle extremism now takes on a new perspective. The task facing religious leaders to proclaim their beliefs whilst preaching a message of peace which all can embrace is a daunting one. And the job which all citizens will have to face head on- to ensure society works together for liberty, security AND freedom of speech/belief/expression- is perhaps the greatest of all. The EDL and their links to these atrocities highlight that we cannot think this is ‘another country’s problems’- this has changed the Global War on Terror forever.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those affected, as well as those responsible or facing the ever-changing future challenges of combatting extremism.