This week we saw the terrible sight of a Mosque being burned down in Muswell Hill. The letters EDL were painted on a wall nearby. I've no idea how many arsonists or EDL supporters read this blog. I am rather hoping a few of them do. Why you may ask? Because I believe that the we should always strive to resolve our differences by reasoned argument. If the arsonists who burned down the Mosque did it purely because they enjoy watching things burn down, I suspect that there is little I or anyone else could say to persuade them to find other ways to get their kicks. If however they burned the Mosque down in what they believe to be an act of patriotic fervour, maybe they should take a long, hard look at themselves and their actions.
Firstly if they are seeking to uphold the English way of doing things, they have failed miserably. We don't go in for destroying places of worship. It is a distinctly un English response. My first reaction is one of disgust. Such actions lead nowhere. If there was a round of mutual attacks on places of worship, then everyone would suffer. Scouts, guides, OAP's would lose venues for community activities. Worshippers would not be able to conduct their prayers. I am not aware of any religion (or any atheist for that matter) who seeks to distance people from their honestly held beliefs. Churches and mosques are community assets and focal points for communities to meet. Sadly in some cases all manner of strange people with views that seem odd to the rest of us congregate at some, but in a free country we tolerate and celebrate our differences.
I was also disgusted by the cowardly nature of the attack. Islam and every other religion is well able to cope with such attacks. Years of persecution by communisim did nothing to suppress Christianity or Islam in the USSR. In fact our own tolerant attitude seems to be far more likely to erode support for religious institutions than direct and violent attacks. If the arsonists aim was to stir up resentment between communities, I suspect the opposite will happen, as all decent religious groupings will doubtless do what they can to help.
I am a practising Roman Catholic and our church offered prayers for the murdered soldier and for his attackers, praying they would see the error of their ways and turn away from violence. I noticed a few members of congregation bristle at such a suggestion, but it is the most powerful response to such an atrocity.
The Arsonists may believe they are doing their bit for Christianity. If they do, they have not read the bible. That advocates non violence. It says "turn the other cheek" in the face of violence and oppression. In many ways, turning the other cheek is the hardest thing to do.
I believe that first and foremost, we are all brothers and sisters. Whatever creed we follow, we are part of the same family. If your brother or sister behaves badly, you may want to put distance between yourself and them, but mostly we hope that they find their way again and if they do, we forgive them.
In short, I hope that for our local community, we see this outrage for what it is. I hope we rise above it and pull together. I will be shocked if we don't