It has entered the history books simply as 7/7: the 7th July 2005 is one of those dates you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard that they had bombed Russell Square Underground station, where 26 innocent people died. And then they bombed Edgware Road, where six lost their lives. And then another seven were blown to pieces at Aldgate. And then, an hour later, just as we thought it was all over, a fourth bomb blew the roof off a number 30 double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, killing another 13 people just going about their normal morning business. It could have been any of us.
We were later to learn who ‘they’ were: Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30; Shehzad Tanweer, 22; Hasib Hussain, 18; and Germaine Lindsay, 19. All were reportedly linked to al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They hated us enough to want to kill us.
Hate is a curious thing: it is not love, and yet we cannot hate what we have not loved, for hate emanates from the birth of self-conscious notions of betrayal by those to whom we looked for fellowship, protection, gratification and emotional responsiveness. The baby cannot hate: only as the ‘self’ is gradually distinguished and apprehended does the frustrated child manifest aggression toward those ‘others’ who once fulfilled the nurtural impulse to care, caress and kiss. When that need is outgrown, there comes resentment, loathing, despising and hate. But in our anxiety to avoid the intrusion of negative sentiment into our rational minds, we deny the distorting influence of anything so base as terror and rage born of selfishness.
The Islamist hates us because he loves his conception of Allah and the path of his prophet more. It is a complex sublimated spirituality of moral repression and salvation aspiration. It is a necessity of mind and spirit, like child’s play is to mind and body. The Islamist’s sense-gratification comes with a struggle – a jihad for supremacy. Separation from their fellow man is of no consequence when he is materialistic, individualistic, perverse and corrupt. There is no loneliness in following the path of the master Mohammed, where light and dark are hazed by perpetual twilight, and love is an inarticulate state of rage against all of human social life that has not yet submitted to the divine will.
Recalling the moment he walked into Russell Square tube station that morning, the Rev’d John Valentine, Rector of St George’s Church in Queen Square, reflects:
It was a moment, and a morning of horror. I still don’t understand it, still find it hard to go back there in my mind. It has changed me. There is still outrage, anger. Still a great sense of shock, of violation. But, to my surprise, a friend who was also there, spoke of seeing Jesus on the streets of Holborn that day. And there in the middle of the horror, He was. The courage of ordinary people. The dedication and tenacity of the medics, working to save life with none of the right equipment. The ambulance man about to go back down to the tunnels again, this time to get the bodies of those who had died. The policeman asking for prayer, shaking with the strain, but then 5 minutes later calm, directing the anxious crowd. The people who came in to open the church, to provide a place of safety and care, with food and blankets and hot sugared tea. The school teachers calmly reassuring the children.
Yes, a day of horror. But, yes, we saw Jesus walking the streets of Holborn that day.
The hate of the Islamist will not conquer the love of Christ. We may rationally and reasonably fear their dissipated energies, though Islamophobia has itself become a hatred of the ‘other’. But perfect love casts out all fear, and there is no room for hate in the kingdom of love. The Islamist seeks to terrorise in order to demonstrate to himself that he is loved by Allah. Our response to their hatred and violence, as the Rev’d John Valentine reminds us, should be impulsive: to restore peace to human fellowship; do good to those in need; hug those who shake with fear; weep with those who weep, and pray for those whose eyes are dimmed with losing life. The pathological Islamist cult of hate may contend against our culture, but it will never prevail against the altruistic sanctity of our incarnational vocation to be more and more like Jesus.