Abderramane Sissako’s Timbuktu Blues

I have nothing against cinema as recreational entertainment, or going to the movies for the sake of escapism.  Cinema has always served these purposes, and there is nothing inherently ignoble about them.   But such expectations also tend to produce an awful lot of mass-produced ephemeral dross and formulaic over-hyped blockbusters drenched in Dolby sound and  CGI effects, with emotions and messages pitched at the average 12-year-old with a full bag of popcorn.

2015, like most years, was dominated by films like this, whether it was the frenetic and vacuous inanity of Mad Max Fury Road or the new Star Wars.  But that wasn’t all there was to it.  As is the case every year,  a trickle of films continued to aspire to art as well as entertainment, and you.won’t find a better example of the former than Abderrahmane Sissako’s magnificent Timbuktu, which I saw last night.

Set during the 2012 occupation of Timbuktu by the Salafist/Jihadist group Ansar Dine, Timbuktu is a beautiful, poetic and overwhelmingly powerful response to the fanaticism and dim-witted cultural reductionism practiced by Ansar Dine and so many other jihadist groups..

Sissako’s primary focus is the cultural repression inflicted on Timbuktu and northern Mali by Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups, who imposed the most rigid and harsh Sharia law on the areas they occupied.  From the opening sequences of an antelope fleeing a group of armed jihadist hunters in the desert, followed by  a scene in which the same men riddle wooden and clay sculptures with bullets,  Sissako depicts jihadism as a violent and alien intrusion into the rich cultural spaces of northern Mali and the Sahara.

Sissako’s jihadists are not depicted as monsters, even though their actions are monstrous.   They are clods, tyrants and fanatics, and also hypocrites.   They ban smoking while secretly smoking themselves.  They ban football and argue with each other over whether France really won the World Cup.   They fancy the same women who they order to cover themselves.  They attempt to dialogue with the people under their control and recruit them to their cause, but when these attempts fail they impose their demands through coercion and the threat of violence.

The jihadists are mostly ignorant  of the societies they have taken over.  They don’t speak the local languages and don’t understand local traditions.  This ignorance is revealed in a number of  telling and sometimes comical scenes; when a group of jihadists enter a mosque where the locals are praying, the Imam asks them why they have come to a place of prayer with guns and boots on and orders them out.   In another scene, a despairing fishmonger berates the jihadists who order her to wear gloves when selling fish and points out that this restriction is completely impractical and that her honour does not need protecting.

Sissako is particularly concerned with the jihadists’ attempt to obliterate Mali’s world-famous musical traditions.   In one scene, a group of armed jihadists sent to stop some of the residents of Timbuktu from playing music discover that the musicians are singing songs of praise to God and the Prophet and are forced to call their superiors to ask what to do..  In one of the most affecting scenes in the film, armed jihadists interrupt a joyful domestic singing session and arrest its participants.

The female singer, played by the great Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, receives eighty lashes as a punishment, and in the middle of her brutal whipping she begins to sing. Such resistance permeates the film.   Sissako shows the inhabitants of Timbuktu arguing with the jihadists and refusing to accept their restrictions or their forced marriages.  In one marvelously witty and beautiful scene,  a group local youths play football without the ball that has been confiscated.

In another episode the herdman’s wife Satima is washing her hair.  When a jihadist who is clearly attracted to her orders her to cover it, she tells him to stop looking if it offends him and asks him why he always comes to visit her when her husband is not around.  There are so many great moments like this.   Some of them are deftly comical, but if Sissako is willing to mock the stupidity and the hypocrisy of the jihadists he portrays, he also shows their violence and cruelty in a film that acquires its emotional punch slowly and almost languorously before building up to its shattering conclusion.

At the core of the film is a tale of an accidental murder which unfolds as relentlessly as a Greek tragedy or a tale by Chinua Achebe, and which ultimately dooms its central characters, as it intersects with the wider tragedy of the jihadist occupation.  Timbuktu is not an indictment of Islam itself.  On the contrary, Sissako makes it clear that there many forms and expressions of Islam and that many of them are to be found in the ancient desert melting pot of Timbuktu itself.

His film is nevertheless an essential and unforgettable meditation on the global tragedy that we have all become so depressingly familiar with in the 21st century. To have done all this with such lyricism, humour, compassion and understated insight is a really triumphant achievement.  Like every great film, Timbuktu is the sum of its parts.  From the music and cinematography, to the acting, script and direction, it is absolutely flawless.

In short readers, we are talking about an authentic cinematic masterpiece, which reminds us that cinema can still tell us vital stories about the world we actually live in rather than merely help us try to escape from it.

And if you see no other film from 2015, you really must see this, by any means possible.

Terrortalk

Many years ago, when I was doing my A’ Levels, my English teacher gave us three basic rules of thumb to apply when reading texts: 1) What is the author trying to achieve? 2) To what extent does he/she succeed on his/her terms? 3) To what extent does he/she succeed on your terms?

Of course there are a lot more questions you can ask about books and writers, and even the three that have mentioned immediately raise a number of issues.   But I have always found my English teacher’s advice useful not when thinking about books, but on many other occasions.  When I was writing my history of terrorism The Infernal Machine, for instance,  I often tried to apply them to the individuals, organizations and movements I was writing about, as well as the states that were fighting them.

But in the process of researching that book, I often realized how rarely such questions are asked, not only in the abundant literature that has historically framed ‘terrorism’ as an un-Western, un-democratic and alien phenomenon of violence, but also in the wider discourse that has surrounded particular terrorist emergencies.

Whether it was the ‘anarchist terror’ of the 1890s, the Kenyan ‘Mau Mau’ or even the IRA, the societies that were on the receiving end of this kind of non-state violence were rarely encouraged to think about what its protagonists were trying to achieve, or whether they succeeded on their terms, and independent judgments about the causes and context of such violence were generally preempted by officially-orchestrated hysteria and anathemas that attempted to impose their own answers.

Conventional wisdom on the subject tended to present terrorism as an eruption of irrational and monstrous violence whose essential aim was nothing less than terror itself. The practitioners of this kind of violence were often depicted as moral aliens and wild beasts who were beyond rationality and understanding, and these representations often acted as a pretext for ‘virtuous’ counterterrorist violence, in which the extermination of terrorists could become a ‘sacred duty’, as the anthropologist Edmund Leach once put it.

Privately, governments might have a very keen understanding of their opponents, their tactics, strategies and political goals, but this knowledge rarely informed public debate about terrorism and was often deliberately concealed from the wider society.

Generally speaking, in the course of terrorist emergencies, civil society is discouraged from thinking or talking about terrorism beyond the very narrow parameters that governments seek to impose or disseminate.    The events of the last week have brought home to me how narrow these parameters have become.  Over the last few days I have often heard my words and those of my fellow-blogger Chris Floyd described as ‘unacceptable’ by the Labour MP Emma Reynolds and others.

Leaving aside the question as to whether Reynolds has even read or understood the pieces she has condemned, and the extent to which she was merely using them for political purposes, the hysteria and outrage that she and others expressed so readily nevertheless demonstrates that our current emergency is not that different from many of its predecessors.

Today, as in the past, civil society is expected to applaud dishonest and opportunistic depictions of the enemies we face that tell us much more about how our governments would like us to see them than the way they see themselves.  We are not supposed to think about what it is about these organizations that enables them to continually find new members.   We are not supposed to think about what their political aims are or the source of their global appeal in any other terms except their common hatred for everything that is good about us.

We are not expected to think about where that hatred may come from, and whether – at times – it may be related to things that our governments have done,  and not simply because we are all good people who love freedom.  We have now reached such a level of hysterical dishonesty that the British government is prepared to monitor Muslim toddlers for signs of ‘radicalization’, yet politicians dismiss any discussion that includes us as well as the demonic Other is considered to be ‘unacceptable.’

Often we are told that jihadists are ‘death cults’ with no political aims beyond death, even when it is very clear that their organizations are using violence – however extreme and horrific – strategically for political purposes.  Politicians like to tell us that these groups – whether al Qaeda or Daesh – are a new form of fascism comparable to Nazism – an explanation that should make it possible to understand them in political terms, yet try and write about the political context in which these groups emerged, as Chris Floyd attempted to do after the Paris massacres, and you hear that this ‘unacceptable..

The least that can be said about these constraints is that they are not helpful in eliminating the lethal threat that these groups represent.  Instead they leave the broader debate about terrorism to governments, thinktanks, ‘terrorist experts’ and establishment commentators, who too often reproduce the official interpretations of terrorism that have done absolutely nothing to bring the ongoing emergency to an end.

If we look back on the way that western governments have responded to the atrocities of 9/11, virtually everything they have done has played into the hands of their jihadist enemies.  Al Qaeda wanted to bring the ‘crusaders’ into the Middle East and Central Asia; we obliged them.   Jihadism feeds off weak or failed states; we have helped given them four.  Islamic State would like to have ‘crusader’ armies bombing Syrian cities and get involved in yet another open-ended war; we’ve done that too.

Again and again, ill-thought-out and often blatantly opportunistic forms of military intervention have helped create precisely the kinds of conditions in which al-Qaeda type formations thrive, while heavy-handed and authoritarian campaigns against ‘radicalization’ at home have only exacerbated the bitterness, alienation and anger that makes it easier for such groups to recruit.

The result is a global terrorist emergency that, unlike its predecessors, is not only global, but is potentially indefinite, because it is unfolding in so many countries and in so many different contexts.

The consequences of this situation have already been disastrous, and unless we can get to grips with it, and design appropriate strategies, both abroad and at home, they will certainly get worse and we will never find our way out on this dire trajectory of terrorist massacre, war, national security authoritarianism and racism that is choking our world to death.

In order to do that we need to be able to talk and think openly about terrorism and terrorists, regardless of  whether governments and politicians find what we say ‘acceptable’, because the evidence of the last fifteen years suggests that too many governments are not thinking about it at all, and that if they have applied the three very useful questions that my English teacher once recommended many years ago to the current state of emergency, then they are not telling us the answers.

In God’s Name: Religion, Islam and Pakistan’s child murderers

‘Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction,’ wrote Blaise Pascal. From General Lothar von Trotta’s extermination of the Herero to the Russian purges, the Holocaust and the Kymer Rouge, the twentieth century provided numerous examples of terrible violence and mass killing that did not have an explicitly religious motive, and which sometimes had no religious component at all.

Nevertheless in the last three decades the world has experienced an upsurge of violence that seems, at first sight, to bear out the French philosopher’s thesis, and much of it has been carried out by Muslims acting in the name of Islam.  Religiously-inspired violence is by no means uniquely Islamic, nor is such violence the only form of violence in the world, even if it tends to dominate the headlines.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Muslims have been responsible for a succession of merciless and cruel acts of violence across the world. Again and again their actions have disregarded all established laws and customs of war and thousands of years of attempts to distinguish between military targets and non-combatants or other people considered to be innocent, harmless and deserving of immunity or protection.

Their targets have included entire villages and neighborhoods in Algeria, office workers and airline passengers in New York, Iraqi Shia and Sunni, tourists in Mumbai, Kenyan shoppers, and commuters in Madrid and London. In Nigeria Boko Haram murdered 59 boarding school pupils in April because they were receiving ‘Western’ education.   Only last month, 28Kenyan bus passengers were shot to death because they could not quote verses from the Koran.   In Iraq, Isis has butchered thousands of army prisoners and beheaded unarmed hostages as instruments of media warfare.

Even by the dire standards set by these groups in recent years, last week’s mass murder of 132 school pupils in Peshawar has established a new level of vile and amoral cruelty. The question put by one of the ‘militants’ who carried out this attack to his handler: ‘We have killed all the children in the auditorium. What do we do now?’ is further evidence of the extent to which so many individuals and organizations that subscribe to some form of jihadist ideology have abandoned all moral or ethical constraints to carry out acts of  ‘virtuous murder’ in the name of religion.

Of course such acts take place in a wider context.  In many cases the jihadist atrocities we hear about are part of a broader continuum of violence and cruelty that is often ignored – until some jihadist atrocity brings it to retrospective light. In Pakistan, for example, the Tehrik-i-Taliban splinter group that claimed responsibility for the attack on the military school has said that it was carried out in retaliation for the Pakistan army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb (‘Strike of the Prophet’s Sword’), which has been going on in North Waziristan since July.

In September the Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations branch claimed that it had killed 910 ‘terrorists’ in these operations. No one can tell how many of these casualties were really ‘terrorists’, but the army’s claims can certainly by taken with a massive dose of salt, given its previous record in Waziristan. Last month an NBC News on-the-ground report found that these operations had displaced at least 700,000 civilians ‘ and left entire towns rubble-strewn and virtually deserted.’

Unlike the attack on the school, these operations received little attention in the international media. So on one level the motive behind the attack on the school was simple vengeance, as well as  demonstrating to the Pakistan army and government that the ‘Tangos’, as the army calls the Taliban, have not been defeated.  The attack also fits into the ignoble but logical tradition of the ‘soft target’ used by weaker non-state groups against more powerful opponents.

But the FMLN in El Salvador were once subjected to equally destructive and bloody military sweeps and bombardments.  They did not respond by murdering the children of their enemies.  For the most part they fought the security forces, not compensatory ‘soft targets.’

The Tehrik-i-Taliban and its counterparts elsewhere are clearly operating according to an entirely different moral calculus, and religion has played a key role in this process.  We cannot ignore this just because it is inconvenient. We are after all, dealing with a hit-team that posed with their guns in front of a white flag proclaiming ‘ There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s messenger’ before going off with the intention of murdering as many children as possible.

They believed that God approved of what they were about to do, no matter what anybody else might say, and they believed that such approval gave them the right to murder who they liked.

Recognizing the role that religion plays in facilitating and legitimizing such atrocities doesn’t mean that we have to accept the essentialist view of Islam propagated by bigots and Islamophobes, who seek to portray such actions as uniquely or intrinsically Islamic. We do not have to believe that such acts are all the result of sexually-frustrated young men eager to get to heaven and have sex with virgins.

Nor do we have to sink to the ‘texts’ argument, which quotes the most bloodthirsty verses from the Koran to argue that all Muslims are somehow obligated to follow them and secretly agree with them. They aren’t and they don’t, any more than Christians are obliged to follow the equally bloodthirsty passages in Numbers or Deuteronomy just because they’re Christians.

Those who argue that Islam has some unique propensity to violence and atrocity in the modern world ignore the Buddhist monks who advocate the extermination of the Rohingya, or Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Hebron. The Argentine dictatorship of the 1970s was run by Christian generals who believed that torturing and murdering students and school pupils was part of some God-sanctioned task of eliminating Marxist ‘subversives’.

These practices were tacitly sanctioned by the Argentinian church and explicitly supported by some clerics, such as the bishop who believed that tossing drugged prisoners into the sea was God’s way of separating the ‘wheat from the chaff.’

The Tehrik-i-Taliban and many other jihadist groups belong to the same tradition.  They  may have adopted a very primitive form of Islam, like the GIA in Algeria or al-Shabaab or Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. Some of these groups may have only the flimsiest understanding of what Islam actually is.  Others may have found Imams and ’emirs’ who tell them what they want to hear, who have interpreted the Koran and the Hadith to justify the most vicious acts they feel are necessary.

Nevertheless, all these groups have been able to operate in a moral vacuum that makes them behave, quite often, like Nazis.   In portraying themselves as God’s instruments or defenders, they have transformed actions that would normally be morally abhorrent into something sacred – in their eyes at least.  They no longer have to take any individual moral responsibility for their actions, having handed such responsibility to God or some pseudo-theologian who can tell them that God approves of what they do.

Because God loves them and they love God, their enemies can easily be transformed in a subhuman ‘Other’ who can be killed without any qualms. In some cases their targets might be ‘kaffirs’, but the primary victims of jihadist/takfiri terrorism have been other Muslims, because killing for God enables you and you alone to decide what a real Muslim is or should be, and of course to murder anyone who doesn’t conform with your/God’s expectations.

Many of these groups also use violence as an essential instrument of social and political control, in propagating their reactionary version of the ideal Islamic society – a pseudo-utopia in which the control and subordination of women has become an ongoing obsession.

Once again, religion allows them to kill teenage girls who seek education, just as it allows them to blow up cinemas, or murder ‘heretical’ Shia or Yazidi or anyone else considered to be un-Islamic or impious.  After all, if it’s in God’s cause, then what could be wrong with it?

I am not advocating secularism or atheism as some kind of panacea for this phenomenon. If we are ever to get out of this new age of cruelty, we ought to accept that all religions have a capacity to act as motivators for peace as well as violence, and Islam is no exception.

But we also ought to recognize that when religion is linked to the latter it can, as Pascal suggested, enable its proponents to do evil, and to do it ‘completely and cheerfully’,  as Pakistan’s child killers proved so horribly last week.

 

Westgate: God’s Trashy Gangsters

Killing in the name of religion invariably provides a special moral uplift that is not always available in its ‘secular’ variants, with a unique ability to cast an aura of nobility over even the most squalid and disgusting acts.

The last week has produced  a real bumper crop of such acts by the disparate  ‘Islamist’ groups in various parts of the world who believe that God has given them a license to murder anyone with impunity.  On 21 September dozens of Shia mourners were blown to bits at a funeral in Sadr City, in a chain of three explosions that also killed the firefighters and ambulancemen who came to the scene – an episode that brings up the death toll in Iraq this year to more than 6,000.

That same day the horrendous terror-spectacle began in Nairobi, when al-Shabaab militants began rounding up shoppers and shooting those of them who weren’t able to recite certain Islamic prayers or didn’t know the names of Muhammed’s wives.   The following day more than 80 Christians were murdered by a suicide bomber in Peshawar while coming out of Sunday mass.

And now members of the Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad – better known as Boko Haram – in northeastern Nigeria have shot more than fifty students in their dormitory at an agricultural college in Yobe state.

The victims of these attacks were selected for various reasons.   In Peshawar the Christians were killed because they were Christians.   In Iraq it was because they were Shia.   In Nigeria, they were students – a category that Boko Haram regards with particular loathing and contempt and has targeted before.   In Nairobi, the 79 or so victims were shoppers or ‘Kenyan Kuffar’, as an al-Shabaab tweet put it.

Not that the holy men responsible for this outrage were too bothered about these niceties, and the ability to speak Arabic or know the names of Muhammed’s wives wasn’t necessarily enough to please these gun-toting scholars.  According to eyewitnesses, two women were asked to quote some verses from the Koran to prove that they were Muslim.

Even though they did so correctly, the believers shot them anyway.   When some of their terrified hostages asked why they’d done this, they were told ‘ they weren’t wearing the hijab.’

Such behavior is entirely par for the course for al-Shabaab.  Over the last few years I have met a number of Somali refugees in Europe who fled their country because they were targeted by the group for their un-Islamic behavior.  One man was threatened with death because he was selling cigarettes and selling cigarettes is ‘against Islam.’

Another was told he would be shot if he didn’t close the photography shop where he worked because taking photographs is also ‘against Islam.’  Yet another told me how his sister was shot dead because she was walking in the streets with her female friends, something that al-Shabaab equates with prostitution.

Women who get above themselves invariably invite the ire of these defenders of the true faith, and not only in Somalia.   Last April Pakistani teacher Shahnaz Nazli was shot dead while leaving the primary school where she taught  in Peshawar.  And in June a female suicide bomber belonging to the jihadist group Lashkar e-Jhangvi killed 14 students from the all-female Sardar Bahuda Khan University on a bus in Quetta, followed immediately afterwards by another suicide bomb attack on the hospital where the survivors were sent, which killed 11 more women, including the nurses who were treating them.

Misogyny is only one component in a cult of violence, whose adherents are always willing to respond with a bomb, a bullet or a knife to the throat to anyone who doesn’t fit their definition of religious purity.   Like the dozens of Iraqis who have been blown up this summer for sitting in cafes, or playing or watching football – another activity that Islam doesn’t approve of, say the holy warriors.  Or the children who were mortared at a river because they were swimming  and- you guessed it, swimming is ‘against Islam’.

All these crimes have been carried out by groups that subscribe in one form or another to the concept of jihad and want to ‘Islamise’ their societies according to their definition of what ‘Islam’ is.  Such groups have their own localised contexts, causes and agendas.   Many of them are fighting enemies who are not exactly setting a pristine example of human rights, human dignity or mercy.  Iraq is ruled by a corrupt authoritarian and sectarian government whose security forces kill and torture with impunity.

The rise of Boko Haram has been fueled by acts of police and military brutality in northeastern Nigeria.    Al-Shabaab is  a consequence of a war-ravaged society that was tipped even deeper into the vortex when the Bush administration backed the 2006 Ethiopian invasion to topple the Union of Islamic Courts.

The Westgate attack was partly carried out by al-Shabaab in retaliation for the abuses carried out by the Kenyan security forces in Kismayo and the Somalia-Kenya border region – abuses that are well-documented and have prompted even the Somali government to call for Kenya to remove its troops.

But none of this can justify the trail of blood, violence and atrocity that these holy warriors have left across the world in the last few weeks – and years,  which has repeatedly violated the most elementary principles of humanity, mercy and restraint.   All of them have done this in the name of their religion, or rather those components of it that suit their purposes, in order to propagate a reactionary, authoritarian, and primitive version of Islam as an instrument of social and political control and quasi-military mobilisation.

Few of these ‘jihadists’ who want to bring about a new ‘caliphate’ have even the vaguest notion of what the caliphate was, and their willingness to kill anyone who disagrees with them make it unlikely, if not impossible, that they could ever achieve the pan-Islamic unity they supposedly aspire towards.

If these holy gunslingers are aware of the cultural and intellectual grandeur of Cordoba, Baghdad or Damascus, when the Islamic world was at the height of its power and influence, they give no indication of it.    The name ‘Boko Haram’ is Hausa for ‘Western Education Forbidden’, but you could easily leave out the ‘Western’ part of that sentence.  In 2009 Muhammed Yusuf, then leader of the group, told the BBC that education ‘spoils the belief in one God’ and dismissed the notion that the earth was round as ‘ contrary to the teachings of Islam.’

Islamophobes would like to present such troglodyte ideas – and the crimes of those who believe in them –  as a natural and inevitable product of Islamic culture and religion.  Some secularists have argued that such crimes are a product of religion per se.   But even the most cursory look at human history suggests that religion is only one of various justifications for mass killing.    And Islam, like all religions, contains ideas and messages of peace and tolerance as well as violence.

In a recent interview with Robert FiskSheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria forgave those who shot dead his son at Aleppo University last year.  Hassoun told Fisk ‘ I am ready to go anywhere in the world to say that war is not a sacred deed…And those who have fought under the name of Jesus, Mohamed or Moses are lying. Prophets come to give life, not death.’

At a peace rally last week at Edwardes College in Peshawar, Christians and Muslims paid tribute to the medical students killed in last week’s church bombing, and one of the lecturers read an address from the College Principal, Canon Dr. Titus Presler, which contained the following message:

Salaam alekum – Peace be with you. That is the customary greeting among people throughout Pakistan. The peace we wish upon one another is the peace of God, and the greeting recognizes that God is the God of peace, not discord; peace, not conflict; peace, not violence. So in saying “Salaam alekum” to one another we are lifting up for each other God’s eternal invitation to lives, relationships and communities of peace.

The Westgate mujahideen and those who think like them cannot even begin to wrap their minds round this concept.   For them talk of ‘communities of peace’ is just too wussy, and  the traditions of tolerance and coexistence in Islam are irrelevant,  since  religion is about fighting and killing or it is about nothing at all.

Nevertheless they want the world to admire them as much as they clearly admire themselves.   In one of the more bizarre moments of the Westgate siege, a four-year-old boy said to one of the ‘mujahideen’ ‘ you are a very bad man’ – a fairly accurate judgement, one feels.  Amazingly, the object of this accusation gave the boy a mars bar and said plaintively ‘ we are not monsters.’

This ‘mujahid’ might see himself as a holy warrior, fighting in the path of God, but he is right about one thing.  He and his comrades are not monsters; they are murderers, who have joined the ranks of the great mass murderers of history, in selecting generic groups of people who can be murdered  with impunity, be they Christians, Shia ‘heretics’, Jews or ‘Kuffar infidels.’

Al-Shabaab might tweet happily about  the ‘sang froid’ of the mujahideen wandering around Westgate, but that is really nothing to admire.  Because the perpetrators of this disgusting spectacle have allowed themselves to become brutes and butchers, as devoid of mercy and humanity as a concentration camp guard, a Khymer Rouge zealot shooting ‘bourgeois’ teachers for  wearing glasses, an Anders Breivik shooting teenagers and laughing about it, or the Indonesian death squad members who were inspired by gangster films to murder Communist party members during the great killing of 1965 .

This is the tradition that the Westgate religious gangsters belong to.   In doing so, they have shamed their religion and disgraced the name of humanity once again with another act of cruelty.

And no matter what they might think, bringing God into it really doesn’t make it any better.