David Amess and the hate we dare not name
Saturday marked a year since David Amess, then Tory MP for Southend West, was stabbed 21 times during surgery in the constituency. He died at the scene. His killer has since been tried and convicted and will spend the rest of his days in prison. The motive for this brutal attack on a servant of democracy is beyond doubt. The killer was driven by the same heinous ideology that has claimed the lives of nearly 100 people in the UK over the past two decades, making him, by orders of magnitude, the deadliest terrorist threat we have ever seen. are currently facing.
This threat, of course, is Islamism. Ali Harbi Ali, the terrorist who assassinated Amess, has been a fanatic follower of the Islamic State since 2015. He first wanted to travel abroad to fight with ISIS, before deciding to carry out an act of terror at home. him. He had hoped to die a “martyr”. In April, he was found guilty of murder and preparing acts of terrorism.
However, on the occasion of the sinister anniversary of the assassination of Amess, just like the day after the tragedy, no one in the political class is ready to talk about the Islamist threat. Worse still, there is a concerted effort to blame almost everything but Islamism for Amess’ death.
Leading tributes to his slain colleague over the weekend, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle called on MPs to be mindful of their “tone” in political debates. He said they should lead by example by “showing respect and tolerance” for each other. “I want a nicer, kinder parliament because if we’re horrible and we’re shouting and yelling at each other, don’t be shocked when the public copies it,” he told the Mirror.
The alleged incivility of public life has been a common theme in the tributes. Tory MP Tim Loughton, Tory colleague Sayeeda Warsi and Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse have all called for ‘compassion’ to be restored to our politics – both in parliament and online. It’s as if Amess had been killed by a particularly outspoken crackdown in the Commons, rather than repeatedly stabbed by an Islamist terrorist.
None of these tributes mentioned Islamism – although some of them managed to come out on top on all sorts of other issues. Seemingly unashamed, Hobhouse’s tribute managed to ride two partisan hobbyhorses, sneaking a dig at Brexit and the first-past-the-post voting system. You can really bring up anything related to Amess’ death, as long as it’s not Islamism.
In the aftermath of his assassination, a consensus quickly formed among the deputies. The real problem that had to be faced was not Islamist ideology, but social media trolling. And so MPs called for a ban on anonymous accounts. Conservative MP Mark François has even proposed a “David’s Law” for this purpose. Then Home Secretary Priti Patel promised to strengthen the already authoritarian Online Safety Bill. Nadine Dorries, then culture secretary, felt compelled by the Amess murder to make Britain ‘the safest place in the world to be online’.
What all of this had to do with Amess’ murder has never been explained. It was simply asserted. Somehow, the political class has come to hold internet trolls responsible for the evil actions of a terrorist – for a very real, offline act of Islamist brutality.
Mainstream media were also happy to amplify this narrative. A Observer Amess’ Death Weekend editorial pointed to our “toxic political speech” and how social media encourages “malicious speech and hateful sentiment”.
The Observer also had strong words for those who would dare to blame this act of Islamist terror on Islamism. Even though Islamism was a suspected motivation at the time, to deploy these “small details” to “politicize this tragedy”, the Observer said, was “odious”.
What is truly abhorrent, of course, is this constant evasion of the truth. The contortions necessary to circumvent the killer’s true motive are shameful and cowardly.
Tragically, there is nothing new in any of this. The response to every Islamist attack follows the same script. Manchester Arena, London Bridge, Fishmongers’ Hall, Reading – after each attack politicians told us not to get angry. They treat acts of Islamist violence as if they were natural disasters – to be solemnly mourned before we all move on. Even now that an Islamist terrorist has murdered one of their own, MPs no longer show any interest in discussing the real problem we face.
Islamism has become the hate we dare not name – a murderous, fascist ideology we are apparently too afraid to discuss. This conspiracy of silence cannot last. It is an insult to the memory of David Amess and the dozens of other Britons who were killed in the name of this barbaric ideology.