I am not a particularly religious person, but was brought up in an enlightened environment of being allowed to make my own choice as to what and whether I believed. "As long you behave like a decent human being" I was told, "and treat people properly, with respect and dignity, you won't go far wrong". I would like to say I have tried, but have not always been successful in achieving that goal, and there are certain things of which I am definitely not proud. However, mindless violence has not, been one of my failings (except, somewhat flippantly, for having played rugby!). But as for the other indiscretions we learn and move on, for the better one hopes.
As a result of not judging other people solely by their beliefs, I count amongst my friends and acquaintances a real kaleidoscope of nationalities, religions, beliefs and lifestyles. And given my time in the Middle East, many of them followers of Islam. Gentle, humorous, hard-working people, both men and women strange as that may seem to some, who will be as horrified and upset by the recent events that have unfolded in Kenya in the last few day as any other right-minded person.
Such episodes are truly tragic and have no place in our society today, or ever. These acts, and others like them - the explosion in a church in Pakistan a few days ago by a suicide bomber for example - are being carried out in the name of Islam. I fear this is taking us on to a more rapidly icy slippery slope than we have been on for some time, and if no one representing Islam can stand up and say "this must stop", and also do something about it, it's only going to get worse.
And inaction within the world of Islam seems to be the name of the game. The civil war in Syria is a case in point. This is not something that the Western powers should ever have been involved in; it should rightly have been the Arab League's responsibility and at one time it looked as though they might indeed become involved ... but nothing happened. Meanwhile Islamic groups, or should I say terrorist groups using the name of Islam, have become emboldened by the lack of resistance to them and are daring to attack targets of their choosing.
What do they hope to achieve?
If the most recent experiences are anything to go by, the rationale seems to be "if you're not a Moslem, then we will kill you". It is senseless thuggery and murder, not a teaching of Islam and it is going to ultimately create a feeling of ill will against the Moslem community at large. In fact there is already evidence in Britain and other countries to suggest this is already happening. Extremist right wing nationalist groups are themselves looking for opportunities that will give them a "cause" to fight for fighting's sake - so why not turn, in their view, against the Moslem communities? Whether or not they are innocent bystanders.
Human nature is what it is. On the one hand we have the rational statements from world leaders who say, quite rightly, that we should not bow to terrorism and who appeal for calm because it is a minority of terrorists carrying out these acts of extreme violence - but then little happens that we, the public at large at least, see that gives us confidence that the problem is being resolved, or even addressed. We therefore start to live in a world of increasing paranoia because you can't even go shopping without being concerned that you could become collateral damage in an act of wanton terrorism.
Of course, no right-minded person anywhere should try and wash their hands of the problem, because it will spread, if unchecked, and touch everyone irrespective of their background. It's all very well saying this is a problem for Islam to solve, which it is, but the silence that emanates from their world at large, the lack of any authoritative voice from within that community calling for this senseless killing to stop is worrying. To me it puts Islam on an edge that I would argue it should not go over. If it does ... then others may take matters into their own hands with far reaching consequences.