Terrorism – always an individual decision and a crime 60

“The truth is that blood gives gravity even to very stupid thoughts,” our reader Joszaruba writes, commenting on our post Nemesis comes to Europe in which we discuss the atrocious terrorist acts carried out by Anders Breivik in Norway last Friday.

It is an astute observation. But the trouble is, we have to take into account that much of Breivik’s thinking is not stupid to judge by his book, A European Declaration of Independence. (See our post immediately below, A terrorist’s manifesto.)  We agree with his political assessments of the threat of Muslim immigration to European law and civilization. We do not agree with many of his other views, eg against “global capitalism”, for Christianity and the ethos of the Knights Templar. We agree that civil war is likely, but vehemently disagree that it should be preempted (anticipated or even precipitated) by acts of murderous violence.

There is a danger that the blood spilled by Breivik will give the leftist western governments the excuse to put another thought crime on the books: political conservatism with its tributary views against multiculturalism, and for free markets, individual freedom, and even Israel.

Throughout the rightist blogosphere there have been cries of “he is no Christian” – reminiscent of “he is no Muslim” with respect to bin Laden. Can conservative atheists say “he is no conservative?” No. We are put to the hard task of distinguishing between ideologies that do promote war, command fanaticism, desire totalitarianism and those that do not. Or we must look to psychological explanations for individual behavior and why extreme violence – terrorism – is chosen by some as a means of political self-expression. Perhaps this will result in our having to take the awkward position that fanatical conservatives go mad to murder, but fanatical Muslims are acting rationally according to the dictates of Islamic dogma.

If bad ideas are to be vanquished by good ones, how far can the law be used to support the good and inhibit the bad? If Islam is the cause of the violent backlash, should we be demanding laws that proscribe Islam? Is there a way of proscribing the practices of Islam that do not impinge on “religious freedom”: allowing Muslims to pray together, but not to cover females, or engage in polygamy, or carry out the custom of female circumcision and wife-beating, etc.?  That would be tantamount to legislating a reformed Islam – by enforcing the law against practices that would be crimes if not excused by “religion”. Would that be politically more feasible than deporting Muslim immigrants (which may not be possible  as their home countries might not accept them). Certainly Muslim immigration could be stopped, but that would necessitate a national acknowledgement – in fact a positive embracing –  of what is dubbed “racism”, actually nationalism.

If the law is always to allow freedom of expression (of which religion is a sub-category), then we must be very sure of our norms in terms of criminalizing acts, not thoughts. Whether motivated by Islam or anti-Marxism or anything else, mass murder is an individual decision and a crime – not a hate crime, nor a political crime.

When most Western states decided against the death penalty, it placed pre-meditated murder on an equal footing with lesser crime – such as “homicide” as defined in America – and undermined its defenses against fanatical political enemies. It legitimated political “war”. Killing in war is homicide. Insofar as Breivik’s mass murder was an act of war, it was invited by the degeneration of legal norms. Disallowing the death penalty was one step among many taken in the name of “social justice” and “human rights” that contributed to that degeneration.

C. Gee   July 25, 2011