Divided by fear, bigotry, and hate, they at least spoke a common language, shared a version of the same culture and religion and were, though they would certainly deny it, essentially the same people. No such sliver of comfort is available when considering the most extreme, intolerant, and violent Islam seen to such devastating and murderous effect around the world yesterday.
Though scores were murdered for no reason other than the simple, unavoidable fact that they were not fundamental Muslims, the image of a French factory worker being decapitated and his head pinned to a fence is so savage, so utterly barbaric, that the act symbolises what seems an unbridgeable cultural chasm.
How can you negotiate with people like that, people who seem indifferent to either death or being captured and tried for their crimes?
How can you negotiate with a group that sends a bewildered, brain-washed suicide bomber to kill dozens of people at prayer at a mosque in Kuwait city? How can you negotiate with a movement that sends men armed with machine guns to mow down tourists — one of them an Irishwoman — enjoying the longed for summer sun on a beach in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse? How can you negotiate with religious extremists who imagine that killing more than 120 civilians since launching a fresh attack on the Syrian border town of Kobane is doing the work of their god?
How can you negotiate with fundamentalists so literal, so black-and-white in their beliefs, that they impose the most barbaric punishments on the populations unfortunate enough to fall under their control? How can you negotiate with an organisation that mined the ruins of Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old Unesco world heritage site, intending to destroy them them if the Syrian army tries to recapture the city?
That these atrocities were co-ordinated on the very day that America’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a legal right across the US and that President Barack Obama said the ruling was a “victory for America” is another indication that the gap between the secular, tolerant West and the fascists of Islam is growing deeper with each passing atrocity and each and every step the West takes towards ever greater inclusion and equality.
On mornings like this, just as it was on the morning after 9/11, it is difficult to temper anger with restraint, to respond in a rational rather than emotional way. But that is what must happen because IS and their fellow travellers have shown that they are determined and unafraid. They have shown contempt for our way of life and would destroy it if they could. The sooner the West unites, and the moderate states of the Middle East too, to end that ambition the better. Yesterday’s carnage shows that establishing that coalition must be a priority for world diplomacy.