Tom Harwood: After the stabbing of Sir David Amess MP, our leaders need more political courage
This conversation must be about 'defending free speech, defending open societies, defending British values'
The conversation around the killing of Sir David Amess is broken. Disconnected.
Avoiding the brutal truth of the matter. As time goes on we are learning more and more details about Friday’s horrific attack. And it’s becoming more and more clear that was not a killing inspired by nasty tweets, anonymous social media accounts, nor even the deputy leader of the Labour Party calling Tories ‘scum’.
No, the overwhelming evidence points to this being an act of self-radicalised terrorism. Islamist terrorism. The response from so many quarters has been to talk about civility - and while making that point is clearly necessary on so many occasions - in response to this killing - it feels wrong.
It’s a cop out. It is wholly distinct from what went on last Friday. The suspected killer was not a Twitter troll. He is a suspect being held under the Terrorism Act. A suspect who was referred to the counter-extremism programme Prevent a number of years ago.
So why are we now talking about social media? Sadly, we all know why it is easier to talk about being kind to one another than it is to confront the radical political elephant in the room. Yet it shouldn’t be.
Confronting the threat of Islamism is vital in any liberal society. Defeating Islamism should be a higher priority than avoiding causing offence. This isn’t about race, or nationality, or even privately held religion. This is about an evil -political- ideology called Islamism.
An ideology too many are too weak to confront. Islamism is not about what god you as an individual choose to worship. It is the warped idea that your religion must be imposed upon others, on society as a whole, by terror and by force.
That everyone must follow medieval rules, and roll back centuries of social, academic, and technological progress. Yet sadly, somehow, it does take political courage to confront Islamism. A country that prides itself on liberal democratic values, indeed on having given those values to the world, now shrinks from defending them in the face of regressive theocracy.
On left and right alike our leaders need more political courage. Here are some hard truths: Trying to further regulate speech on social media will do nothing – nothing - to prevent this kind of attack.
And here’s another truth. Even if - not a single migrant boat made it across the channel this year, this act of terrorism would still have taken place.
This isn’t about migration, and this isn’t about free speech. The suspected terrorist was home grown. He grew up in Croydon. He was not an anon account trolling MPs on twitter.
It appears he is a British man, who believed evil things. And that’s what this conversation must be about: confronting those beliefs head on with muscular liberalism.
Defending free speech, defending open societies, defending British values.