The Islamic State presents us with a wholly abnormal situation of national emergency
Say we catch the barbarous "Jihadi John" or "John the Beatle" or "John the Jailer" or whatever he's called. And say we then gather the evidence against him and bring a charge of murder. He'll be entitled to legal aid (which will cost), prosecuted (which will cost), and, if found guilty, imprisoned 'for life' (which will cost). He might then be freed in 15 or 20 years or so to wreak revenge on the liberal democratic state he so loathes and despises - a few bombs, a bit of torture, the odd beheading. If we're lucky, we might catch him again. If we're luckier, the police might shoot him dead in the process. How exactly should we punish the Islamists found amongst us?
Some BNP types favour rounding up all the Muslims and deporting them en masse, as if such 'cleansing' is any better than the Islamist vision of the purified Caliphate. Others favour an enforced assimilation; the suspension of their liberties and the suppression of their democratic rights. Nigel Farage apparently wants to revoke their citizenship, which is relatively straightforward for those a-jihading in Syria or Iraq. We could, in theory, prevent their return. But whither do we send (and by what right do we impose upon another state) the Islamists who possess a British passport and EU citizenship? Certainly, we may agree they are not 'British' in the sense of respecting our culture or sharing our values. But the act of revoking citizenship results in stateless exile, perhaps wandering through the deserts of Syria or Iraq where they already feel quite at home. That is a woeful retribution.
A multi-faith consortium has written to the Telegraph:
SIR – What we are witnessing in northern Iraq today is a tragedy of historic proportions in which thousands of innocent people are at immediate risk of death for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief, a right set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is being denied in the most gross and systemic way possible through the attempted extermination of religious minorities. There is no justification for the violation of this inalienable human right.That's six Christians, two Jews , three Muslims, a Hindu, a Sikh and a Zoroastrian.
Such violations as are currently taking place are crimes against humanity that must be both stopped and punished. The culture of impunity within which these dehumanising atrocities have been committed needs to be challenged most vigorously. Given that Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Government must now work towards a United Nations Security Council Resolution that refers this matter to the ICC for investigation and, where necessary, prosecution. The international community must send a clear signal to those who are committing such atrocities that they will be held accountable for their actions.
These violations are, however, sadly part of a wider global pattern of increased societal hostility to, and government restrictions on, freedom of religion or belief. Governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations need to recognise this wider crisis and commit the necessary time, energy and resources to ensure greater respect for this fundamental freedom and forestall further such tragedies.
The Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth
Bishop of Coventry, Church of England’s Lead Bishop on Foreign Affairs
Dayan (Judge) Ivan Binstock
Court of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Ayatollah Dr Sayed Fazel Milani
Imam al-Khoei Islamic Centre, London
Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
Commissioner Clive Adams
Territorial Commander, Salvation Army
His Grace Bishop Angaelos
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom
The Rt Rev Richard Atkinson
Bishop of Bedford
Malcolm M Deboo
President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe
His Eminence Gregorios
Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Senior Rabbi, The Movement for Reform Judaism
The Rt Revd Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
Chairman, International Affairs Department, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza
Principal Imam, Leicester Central Mosque
Dr Shuja Shafi
Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Vice-Chairman, All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief
The thing is, the United Nations has been so utterly deficient in the defence of religious liberty that it is highly unlikely to prove adequate in the administration of justice. When the United Nations Human Rights Council is already captive to those who despise human rights, and when it agitates for religion (ie Islam) to be protected from "defamation", it beggars belief that a body of international judges would ever agree that those who plot the extermination of Christians and other religious minorities are committing crimes against humanity. Are they not Allah's warriors and Mohammed's freedom fighters?
Are the values of the Islamic State so very different from those of Saudi Arabia or Iran? Persecution? Imprisonment without trial? Forced conversion? Beheadings? Saudia Arabia and Iran might not crucify their Christians, but the international community turns a very convenient blind eye to their appalling treatment of religious minorities.
These faith leaders are doubtless well intentioned, and a resolution of the United Nations Security Council might indeed trigger an investigation by the International Criminal Court. But to what effect? The signatories say these violations are crimes which must be punished. How exactly?
It is estimated that somewhere between 800 and 2000 British Muslims are fighting with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Surely the "culture of impunity" within the British state has contributed to this. Our shared commitment to multiculturalism; the diminution of our Judæo-Christian notions of honour, justice and freedom; and our embrace of moral relativity and a positivist conception of nature have fundamentally challenged our understanding of national identity. We cannot "send a clear signal of intent" to those who violate human rights or commit atrocities because we can no longer agree what we mean by "clear", "violation" or "atrocity".
Surely the Jihadis that went out from amongst us ought to be tried in British courts? And surely, if found guilty, their life must be forfeit? For the commandment of God against killing is an expression of His will for the protection and affirmation of the lives of those who dwell in peace; not an absolutist expression of their inviolable and intrinsic worth.
The preservation of life may, paradoxically, occasionally require its termination. The problem, then, is that by taking up the sword against Jihadists we potentially create a legion of Islamist martyrs, who, by their submission to the will of Allah and sacrifice in the name of Mohammed, may inspire another wave of Christian-crucifying zealots.
Peacemaking is the fundamental task of Christian ethics, but the Islamic State presents us with a wholly abnormal situation of national emergency. We either confront and kill, or surrender our hard-won liberty, our cherished freedoms and our national independence. We cannot wait for the United Nations to deliberate and proclaim their resolution any more than we can depend on them to guard our freedoms of religion and belief. We are talking here about the physical, intellectual and spiritual lives of the British people, and their relationship to God. We cannot abdicate our national responsibility to supranational deficiency.