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You will no doubt have heard about the brutal and atrocious killing of a soldier outside a British army base on Wednesday. According to witnesses, the two perpetrators used a car to run him over outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, South East London, before setting upon him with knives and meat cleavers and attempting to behead him. Both were then shot by police, but remain alive and currently under armed guard in hospital. 
This sickening attack has been described by the British government and the media in general as a terrorist killing. Indeed the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, called a meeting of the British government’s terrorist committee, COBRA, and said that Britain will “never buckle in the face of terrorism.”  The claim has also been made that the attack bore “all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda.” 
Was this actually a terrorist attack? Well, much depends on your definition of terrorism, but using a generally accepted definition of the term – “the systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve a goal” – it is difficult to see how it could be, at least at this stage. For an attack to be classed as terrorism, you would need to show not just that the perpetrators had some political or religious grievance, but that they belonged to an organization with some political or religious grievance, a defined set of goals, means of funding and recruiting, and maybe even a stash of weapons. It remains to be seen at this stage whether those who carried out this senseless attack fit into this category, but the manner in which it was carried out and the weapons used strongly suggests that their actions were not part of some sort of organized and coordinated campaign. Sure, they clearly had a political and religious grievance, but was what they did actually part of an orchestrated and systematic organization?
The British government and the world’s media clearly think it was, which is where the claim that the attack bears all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda comes in. This is the now standard line wheeled out by governments and the media every time a killing takes place where the perpetrators happen to be members of the “peaceful” religion. There is a reason they do this, which I’ll come to in a moment, but is there actually any truth in the claim? What exactly is meant by “the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda?”
Look at some of the atrocities over recent years that have apparently fallen into this definition. A group of Muslims hijack planes and fly them into the World Trade Centre shouting Allahu Akbar as they do it – all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda. A bunch of Muslims detonate bombs on the London underground and bus network in 2005 – all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 US army personnel at Fort Hood in 2009 and is heard to shout Allahu Akbar as he does it – again, all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda. And now a couple of crazed Muslims hack a British soldier to death outside an army base, shouting Allahu Akbar as they did it – once more, all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda.
In other words, any method, means and place of attack you can possibly think of can be fitted into the "all the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda" box. But since a hallmark is by definition a recognisably consistent characteristic linking different events, how can it be said that these wildly different attacks bear the “hallmarks of Al-Qaeda?”
Of course the thing that connects all the killings mentioned above is not means, method or place, but the fact that they were all perpetrated by Muslims who take the Qur'an very seriously and who shouted the words “Alluah Akbar” as they committed their crimes. Now I don’t doubt that the people who carried out the horrific crime in London have been radicalized in mosques and by various other means, but did they actually belong to a real organization called “Al-Qaeda” receiving their instructions to carry out this attack from “Al-Qaeda” headquarters?
Unlikely, and for a very simple reason: Al-Qaeda doesn’t actually exist. There is no such thing. The name is used by western governments and media types as a convenient method of fooling us into believing that there is some kind of well-funded, well-armed, shadowy organization with its headquarters in something resembling the Mines of Moria, located somewhere in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But why would western governments and media want to make up and perpetuate such a falsehood? Simply because the name Al-Qaeda obscures what is actually going on. For decades these same western governments and media have encouraged the destruction of Christianity, promoted the idea that Islam is a religion of peace, and sold us the idea that Islam can be accommodated into our cultures without bad consequences. So now that the numbers of Islamic dominion-takers is on the rise and Europe and America are becoming increasingly Islamized, whenever a Muslim or a group of Muslims attack the “kafirs” or infidels, as the Qur’an urges them to do, it must at all costs be shown that such attacks have nothing to do with Islam per se, which is a peaceful religion, but must be blamed on a fringe minority.
Now of course it is true that most individual Muslims are not all jihadists. If they were, the rest of us would all be dead. But the claim that Islam is peaceful and can be fitted into our “secular” democracies is laughable. Islam is submission, and its goal is nothing less than to force the whole world under the Islamic yoke. The kinds of people who carried out the attack in London are really just following the precepts they have read in the Qur’an more carefully than those who do not do such things. Al-Qaeda is a convenient label to attach to them in order to fool ourselves that all is generally well and that Islam, per se, poses no threat.
The response of western governments has been predictably risible. Putting on his very best Churchillian rhetoric, Prime Minister Cameron said, “The terrorists will never win because they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values. They are never going to defeat those. That is how we will stand up to these people, whoever they are, however many there are of them, and that is how we will win.”  Mr Obama, for his part said that, “he stands resolute with the United Kingdom, our ally and friend, against violent extremism and terror." 
This really is so much posing and hypocrisy. Firstly, both Mr Obama’s and Mr Cameron’s administrations have funded and aided Islamists in Egypt, Libya and now Syria, calling them “freedom fighters” rather than terrorists. Secondly, a few years ago Britain really did face a proper terrorist organization called the IRA and – at the behest of the Clinton government – caved into it. Part of the deal to stop the IRA planting any more bombs involved releasing hundreds of convicted killers from prison, and bringing the leaders of that organization into government in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that if Al-Qaeda really existed, we would be sitting down with them right now and looking to thrash out some sort of a deal to placate them.
None of this is to minimize the threat that militant Islamists pose. The point, however, is not that the threat comes to us from some villainous well-armed, well-organized group calling itself Al-Qaeda, as governments and the media would wish us to believe. If the attack in South East London has any hallmarks at all, it is that of an increasingly self-confident and militant Islam that we have, by our folly, allowed into our midst as we sought to destroy Christianity. This is just Islam doing what Islam has done time and again throughout history: smelling victory against a largely defeated foe and acting accordingly. It is this that governments and media are desperately trying to cover over by use of the Al-Qaeda bogeyman.