Dominic Grieve, the new Shadow Home Secretary, is a decent chap. He’s also extremely sharp and, as a public prosecutor in a previous life, has prosecuted an impressive range of individuals and organisations.
But his claim in 2005 that he thought the 7/7 London bombings were “totally explicable” – comments brought to light by The Spectator in the past few days – should be of concern to all of us. “Explicable”, of course, isn’t the same as “justifiable”, but it’s not a kick in the shirt off it either. Motivation can always be explained. Myra Hindley, Harold Shipman, Peter Sutcliffe – their actions were, arguably, “explicable” if one takes account of the various psychological assessments that have tried to plumb the depths of these particular individuals’ minds.
But look at what Grieve also said in his 2005 comments. The 7/7 bombings were “totally explicable” because (and these are indirect comments): “of the deep sense of anger over the Iraq war, a wider despair about the Islamic world and what Muslims saw as a ‘decadent’ western society.”
I don’t deny that among British muslims there is anger at what has happened in Iraq, the ongoing situation in Israel and the denial of basic human rights by muslim regimes in the Middle East. But such anger can hardly be used as justification of murder.
And yes, there is resentment by some muslims at what they see as the west’s decadence. In fact, it seems that this, more than foreign policy, is the motivation for feelings of violence towards British citizens. It provided the motivation of the terrorists of 9/11. But such anger at moral standards are religiously inspired and, while important to the holders of those views themselves, they can never – should never – be addressed by government.
It is this point that most concerns me about Grieve’s views. By acknowledging anger at “decadent western society”, he seems to be suggesting that such grievances can be addressed. For the minority of British muslims who believe Islamism is the answer, acknowledging such grievances is never going to be enough. And addressing them in any way is out of the question, since that would represent an unacceptable compromise of liberality and tolerance.
PS (at 10.30pm). Just had a suggestion from a contributor responding to this post over at LabourHome that I’m accusing Dominic of seeking to justify terrorism. For the avoidance of doubt (and apologies if I didn’t make this clear enough) that’s not what I’m doing, and neither would I ever make such a suggestion. The point of this post is to warn against seeking to appease extremists.