My own view is that it was deeply regrettable that the Prophet Muhammad ever existed. The monotheistic religions of Judaism and Christianity were really all we needed. Suddenly introducing another one was bound to cause trouble, especially as it happened at a time when it was thought that violence and bloodshed were a necessary ingredient in religion.
But there it is. We got Islam and we are definitely stuck with it.
The striking thing about Islam is that its great book, the Quran, can be easily interpreted, rather as the Old Testament can, as approving violence towards “unbelievers”. That is striking because it came into existence five hundred or more years after the New Testament, a collection of books which could never be read as approving such violence. And Muhammad, of course, asserted that Christ was a great prophet (though not quite as great as he considered himself to be).
Now, more than fifteen hundred years after the creation of Islam, the world has to contend with a religion some of whose adherents maintain that it is their duty to annihilate all who are not Muslims. That, incidentally, is a point which Mr Corbyn does not understand. His theory that Islamic terrorists only exist because the West has intervened in the Middle East is complete nonsense. The extreme Islamists think it their solemn obligation to kill Christians and Jews because they are Christians and Jews, not because some of their governments have, sometimes misguidedly, taken part in disputes which do not concern them.
But nothing is ever straight forward in this life. The Quran can also be read as being in favour of love and peace. And that is the way in which the vast majority of Muslims read it. That is why it is obviously right that we should all be careful not to assume that all Muslims are supporters of terrorism. Well over 90% of them are not.
Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that appalling atrocities are committed daily (mostly in the Middle East but often in the West) by terrorists who are convinced they are doing Allah’s will. Western politicians, almost all of whom keep asserting that Isil terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, are extraordinarily foolish. They are, all sane people would agree, entirely right to tell us not to be beastly to decent, law abiding Muslims. But their refusal to concede that the terrorists are motivated by their genuine belief that Allah requires them to commit murder on an enormous scale is not at all helpful.
It was undoubtedly true of the IRA, in the worst days of the “troubles”, that a great many of its members were motivated by a simple desire to be nasty. They were common crooks, of the worst sort. But that is not true of these Muslim terrorists. Yes, of course, they are, in our eyes, foul criminals. But they all genuinely believe they are doing what Muhammad instructed them to do. To pretend that their crimes have nothing to do with their religion is to refuse to face the truth.
Know your enemy. If you don’t, you can never hope to defeat him. I don’t pretend to have the answer to extreme Islamist terrorism. But I do understand that the answer will evade us all if we continue with this idiotic refusal to accept that the terrorists are convinced that their vile crimes will bring them eternal salvation.