In direct contravention to the small minority of haters and crazed murderers who applaud violence in the name of their religion, I read this today on the BBC news website:
The Muslim Council of Britain said the murder was "a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly".
Excellent...but I think the world needs to hear much more of this kind of statement from followers of Islam...either more people need to be saying it or the media need to be making such voices more clearly heard. Anything less feeds the consuming monster that is cultural and religious hatred.
Some people will demand the death sentence for the guilty men. I do not believe that killing is a suitable punishment for a killing. Justice must prevail - a justice which serves the future, not simply the present.
Unfortunately I think that the public assumes the opposite: that "justice" these days still should mean an almost mediaeval response to public opinion. For me '"justice" is instead a balancing act of effective legislation and enforcement which is performed in order to protect society from disorder and lawlessness while still allowing the freedoms we value. Freedoms disappear with alarming rapidity when even well-meaning politicians seek to legislate obscene acts of terrorism or fundamental religious craziness out of our societies. There simply is no way to create laws which fully protect us all from violence yet which at the same time retain our hard-won and much cherished freedoms.
Sometimes the balance of the application of 'justice' swings too far one way or the other and the fact that we can complain about it is a sign that things are very close to being as they should be in our respective societies. Unfortunately, however, horrendous crimes such as this will still happen, regardless of the deterrents that we put in place to prevent them and in the face of common sense and rational thought. We cannot legislate against, or protect ourselves completely from, lunatic fringe radicalism - perhaps the best that is possible is to effectively punish such acts, but that of course is always a retrospective act, and the evil deed will already have been done.
Political rhetoric flows like spring water down a mountainside at such moments as these; elected representatives puff out their chests and make carefully written stirring pronouncements, designed in particular to make us remember what they said and when. However; some of what their scripts say does make sense. We cannot, as a culture, allow ourselves to be bowed, to be frightened into behaving differently or to be forced to start allowing things which clash head on with our established values. Forcing one's values and beliefs upon others - whether by violence or otherwise - is an act which belongs in a different age, and which is rightly condemned by rational thinkers. Those who feel that forcing their beliefs upon others is divinely justified are, frankly, crazy.
Those who kill and maim and terrorize ostensibly or literally in the name of their god are rather more crazy still and do not belong at large in the world. There is always a price to be paid for the rule of law; sometimes a metaphorical one, and sometimes a literal, monetary one. If it comes down to cost I would be prepared to pay my part of the tax burden for keeping insane religious fundamentalist murderers away from society. I do not believe in capital punishment but let's have some real (but civilised) penalties: a life sentence should after all mean a life sentence.