The beheading of British Army drummer, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich, a suburb of London, has horrified people all round the world. It is perhaps the blatant nature of the attack in broad daylight on a busy English street, and the swaggering defiance of the perpetrators, that has made this incident all the more horrifying. The two men involved made it clear that they regarded the butchering of this soldier who had served in Afghanistan and Cyprus as just Islamic retribution for the killing of Muslims by Western governments.
We should not be surprised that young Muslim men commit such acts of violence. Despite the attempts of Western Islamic apologists to deny it, Islam is a religion of violence. The Prophet Mohammed exhorted his followers to slay those who refuse to follow his teachings. The reason beheading is popular as a method of following the Prophet's murderous precepts is that he specifically instructed his adherents to use it: "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" (Sura 8 verse 12). I'm not sure whether the beheadings are usually accompanied by digitectomies, but perhaps the Prophet would have excused that minor lapse in protocol by his followers.
There is another reason why we should not be surprised at such acts of terror by Islamic extremists and that is because Western governments have ceded to the terrorists any moral high ground we once might have had. It is appropriate that on the day of the killing of Lee Rigby, President Obama should make a speech justifying his use of unmanned drones against people he suspects of being terrorists, irrespective of their nationality and the likelihood of killing innocents. The president claims the means justify the ends and that the drone strikes are carefully targeted, but of course this is the same argument that the Islamist terrorists make to justify their carefully planned and targeted acts of violence. I can understand the need to resort to desperate measures in desperate times but there is nothing so desperate about the current state of America that justifies the abandonment of the fine principles on which it was founded. The use of drones is contrary to the US Constitution, natural justice, the rule of law and international treaties such as the Geneva Convention.
I am not saying the killing of Lee Rigby was in any way justified – it was a despicable act of violence by two cowardly thugs - but we will never put an end to such acts by descending to the morality of the perpetrators.
The killers of Lee Rigby lost their humanity. We shouldn't lose ours.