1984

Critics come to me demanding to know where I stand on political violence, but despite making absolutely clear exactly where I stand, that is still not enough. Because I grant to people the rights granted to them by international law, and do not simply roll over and capitulate to the demands to deny our enemies those rights.

Look, this is a topsy-turvy world, in which we can turn a blind eye to the actual perpetrators of widespread political violence causing mass casualties on the world stage, pretending that the largest militaries on earth are mere pacifists, defending their own back yard with horrendous weapons that they would never actually use, while simultaneously demanding that largely powerless people throw down their arms, cease resisting and just allow the powerful to do whatever they please.

I wish people who support military action overseas would stop pretending that they are pacifists, concerned about the sanctity of life. Nobody demands that my devoutly Christian neighbour, who helped design missile systems for the RAF, renounces political violence. Nobody asked my old vicar, who used to fly the Lightning for the RAF, to stop holding remembrance services in his church.

But it is apparently the right of every critic of the Muslims to demand that every Muslim, of whatever political flavour, makes a declaration on political conflict in far off lands, with different contexts, histories and conditions. To state, universally, that their taking up of arms is absolutely unacceptable and to denounce it absolutely, and not admit that sometimes that is their right and sometimes it is not, that sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong, depending on the context and their situation.

Yes, in an ideal world there would be no war or conflict. That is the world I would like to live in. But for me — comfortable, middle-class, well-off, free from oppression and free to do as I please — to pronounce on the struggles of others would be presumptuous to say the least. Who am I to pronounce on the battles of others, far off and far removed from me?

That is is why you won’t get a straight answer from me, about one political situation or another, now or in the distant past, because these are not straight questions. They are not my battles and I am not a participant: I am an observer at best. Which, as it happens, is the exact same position as my critics, who I note are free to switch alliances whenever they please, to support one rebel group and then another, to support military conquest if packaged as humanitarian interventions. It is the stuff of Orwellian Double-Speak.

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