I am a terrorist sympathiser because I don’t sympathise with terrorists.
I woke up yesterday morning to find my prime minister, an elected MP whose job is to defend my interests, had privately but in effect publicly described me as a terrorist sypathiser.
I am a hard-core Dawkinsian athiest. I am not only anti-Islamist like David Cameron but I am actually anti-Islam as I am anti-theist in general; a much more stringent position than Cameron’s. I also believe someone when they tell me they have based their murderous ideology on the Qur’an and would never endorse a statement such as ‘it has nothing to do with Islam’. You can hopefully understand then, why I find it deeply irritating for my prime minister to use this terminology to describe me.
I am not a pacifist. I don’t think a credible prime minister can be a pacifist. I have had a lifelong respect for armed forces personnel, and believe they must always be supported financially and otherwise regardless of the wisdom of the politicians who give them their orders. I supported all the military campaigns of the last fifteen years. I believe in meeting NATO’s 2 percent target (I am actually in favour of raising it further). I believe in the wisdom of military action in Syria. Since we are responsible for deployment in that area in recent history we have a duty to help control the area and prevent it from remaining an ungoverned space. At a push I would even say I accept a reduction in civil liberties in order to aid domestic security forces. Now lets analyse exactly what I have done to be described as a terrorist sympathiser.
What I am against is a bombing campaign without a coherent plan for ground forces. I am against entering into a theatre of war without agreements publicly in place with our direct and indirect allies. That is, there must be a coherent strategy which is acceptable to Russia as well as our closest allies. And crucially, it must be presented to the British people. There may be a plan but I have not been shown it. We literally don’t know what the current government position on the Assad regime is for instance.
I understand that I may be ignorant of the issues. I have read the Foreign Affairs Committee report, and that is as far as my understanding goes. I realise that David Cameron is privy to information that I do not have. However, I strongly believe that in a democracy the government should demonstrate to me why action is required and why the action is of the form in which it is presented. I feel that that has not happened in this case. I am concerned about the fact that after a previous vote in 2013 which didn’t pass, RAF jets were involved in allied campaigns anyway. Finally, I find the logical connection between attacks in Paris and this action tenuous. The positions described in this and the previous paragraph are the totality of reasons for which I was called a terrorist sympathiser.
Obviously, I accept that I may be wrong and that a bombing campaign without any troops may turn out to be the wisest approach to defeating IS and that history will prove it thus. I would have no problem with being described as foolish or incorrect or naive or stupid or even evil. But I don’t believe it is acceptable or correct to describe me as a terrorist sympathiser.
It has a quite peculiar psychological effect to be described as a terrorist sympathiser by a senior politician. I am in no danger of being radicalised. As you will understand from the first two paragraphs I am no liberal. I don’t like David Cameron’s and the majority of elected MP’s wet approach to language. I think a religion must always be defined in terms of its political appropriation. I believe a book which says ‘you should kill people who don’t agree with this book’ probably means that and that metaphorical interpretations are dubious and not to be taken for granted. Despite all those things I find myself to be attacked philosophically by a man who frankly hasn’t done the reading. Fundamentally, I would sum up the effect it had on me as alienating. If I, as a privileged white male middle class university educated illiberal pro-military anti-Islamist feels like that how will it make other less mainstream thinkers feel? And what effect might it have on their worldview and actions?
It also gives legitimacy to people who do sympathise with terrorists. Since I can so longer call them terrorist sympathisers I am forced into an alliance with people I consider as evil. It is a syntactical muddle which is as bizarre as it is insulting.
It was a dangerous piece of slander aimed at a large portion of the population and it is an outrage that there has been no apology.
Please accept my apologies for the earnestness and lack of humour,
Raph Shirley, terrorist sympathiser.