Islamist terrorism is a global peril. It is destabilising Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia and several other African nations, most Arab lands, as well as Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and the European continent. Blameless citizens across the world, including millions of Muslims, now live in a state of high anxiety.
This is a volatile and truly testing century, with daily threats, suicide bombs and sudden slaughters. We humans carry on, but this is no time for exaggerated claims, false alarms and overtly racist exchanges. We don't need lazy or prejudiced journalists acting like agents provocateurs or incompetent politicians maligning all Muslims or unfair police insinuations.
Some of these dubious professionals have been hyperactive this week. For example, when a father killed his wife and daughter in Lincolnshire, a police spokesperson reassured us that it 'wasn't a terrorist incident', thus subliminally associating Muslims with bad criminality.
In The Sun, ex-editor Kelvin McKenzie assailed Fatima Manji, a female, Muslim Channel 4 reporter. Wearing a headscarf, she presented the news story about the terrorist attack in Nice. McKenzie recoiled from the image. To him she represented a faith that is now a byword for terrorism. His words were smeared with primitive hatred and blame.
As it happens, I am a modern Muslim woman who is against all forms of veiling. I've even written a serious book on the subject. However, McKenzie used the headscarf to cover what seemed to be his deeply held, deeply malevolent anti-Muslim views (Such delicious irony). I get on with McKenzie and persuaded him to pen a book defending migration for a series I edit. But this column was crass and irresponsible. Though over 1,400 complaints have been received by the press regulator, the damage done cannot be undone. To millions of Brits, Manji is now a danger to the nation.
Many Muslims commit crimes, act insanely, can be cruel and brutish. Too many. Not all of them are terrorists. By sticking that label on a whole array of dreadful behaviours, you devalue the currency and forestall a careful investigation of the causes and manifestations of brutal acts. Distinctions need to be made, details are important. Sometimes heinous killings are carried out by those who do believe they are doing God's work.
On 15 July, Qandeel Baloch, a popular, freethinking, social media star from Pakistani, was strangled by her own brother because she was 'dishonouring' the family. She won't be the last such victim of cultural and religious righteousness. Sometimes madness drives the murderers. Or it can be humiliation.
Millions of Muslims are ashamed of corrupt and dictatorial Islamic governments. A small number of them turn into warriors for a lost age. Some young Muslim men and women I know feel unloved and lost in this complicated world. One suddenly attacked his father and uncle with a cricket bat. A neighbour, an old English soldier, came in and calmed down the son. He is now mentoring him. They are both gay, a secret they must keep.
Recently, there has been a spate of terrifying attacks by Muslim men in mainland Europe. On Tuesday, Muhammad Riyad, a 17 year old Afghan boy refugee, went on a slashing and cutting rampage through a train in Bavaria. Germans are rightly shocked. They took him in, gave him refuge. Neighbours said he seemed 'confused' and ill at ease. The government and police are still trying to find out why he turned, but in the UK he has been branded a teen terrorist. He could be an impressionable young, Isis-influenced assassin. Or he could be severally mentally ill, as some mass killers are. We don't yet know.
Reinforced prejudice and xenophobia will not defeat terrorism but will radicalise more young Muslims.
On Tuesday, in south east France, in a holiday camp, came another appalling attack by a man of Muslim heritage. Mohamed Boufarkouch stabbed a mother and her two young daughters who were staying next door to him and his family. Speculation broke out that he was offended by their scanty summer clothes. Again, we don't know the full facts. That didn't stop the two people I heard on a radio phone-in programme, both absolutely sure Boufakouch was am 'Islamist who hates our way of life'.
Last week, 84 people in beautiful Nice were mowed down by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, again a Frenchman of Muslim heritage. Isis claims him and this one could indeed be an organised crime against a secular state. But according to the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, 'that link is yet to be established'. He wisely keeps his head, while so many others lose theirs.
Reinforced prejudice and xenophobia will not defeat terrorism but will radicalise more young Muslims. Our leaders and commentators need to understand that to beat the nebulous enemy, they need smart intelligence and sharp analysis, proportionate, appropriate, tough responses and, most of all, a commitment to justice and fairness. If they carry on hysterically, there can only be further chaos and perpetual conflict.