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How Shopping Malls Are Like Short Skirts

I have no doubt that you will be appalled and upset by the massacre at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi. Whilst I usually try to be rational about the chances of personally knowing the victims of terrible events reported in the news, my immediate reaction was to contact a Kenyan friend, to check on the safety of his family. The people who fell in Westgate shopping centre were ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives, just as we did today, and we will tomorrow. Their killers, in contrast, do not deserve our understanding. Murder is the most primitive and inhumane manifestation of one person’s power over another. Explaining murder is an exercise in futility. It leads to ever decreasing circles of rationalization, whilst encouraging more murder in future. Empathizing with the murderer often accomplishes nothing.

Like me, most of you will feel that the blame for murdering people with automatic weapons rests with the people who carry automatic weapons and use them to shoot people who are not carrying any weapons. But unfortunately, the UK suffers from an ‘enlightened’ elite, who see things differently, and never miss an opportunity to give moral instruction. Even before the shooting had stopped, before the blood of innocents had been mopped up, one of the British elite had bravely put pen to paper, telling the rest of the world who is really to blame for the killings in Nairobi:

Sometimes we should stop and ask why terrorists commit outrages like that in a Nairobi shopping mall. The answer is the west always over-reacts to big, sensational gestures of extreme violence.

This was from Sir Simon Collins, writing for The Guardian. So I wondered how the British elite would feel if his words were recast, as if Sir Simon Collins was talking about another brutal and primitive crime: the crime of rape.

There is nothing anyone can do to prevent suicide bombers hitting civilian populations.

There is nothing anyone can do to prevent sex offenders praying upon innocent women and children.

The slaughter of Christians in Peshawar this weekend showed that wherever crowds gather they are vulnerable to any group with a brainwashed youth and a bomb.

The knifepoint rape of a 10 year old boy with special needs in Athens, Georgia shows that women and children are not safe anywhere. They are always at risk from pornography-addled molesters.

It might be sensible to discourage like-minded crowds from gathering in one place, be they co-religionists or party faithful or merely the wealthy.

It might be sensible to keep women and children in the home. When they go out, they should avoid drawing attention to themselves.

The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists.

Women wearing short skirts and skimpy tops act like a magnet to rapists. And children who dress in over-sexualized adult styles invite the attention of paedophiles.

Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.

If we cannot stop men from acting on their sexual urges, we should mitigate the damage done, by avoiding public displays of sexuality. Better to keep sexuality in the home, between a husband and wife.

There is no defence against the terror weapons of guns and grenades.

Men have always had sexual impulses and there is no way to change this.

Nor in any society, free or repressive, is there defence against fanaticism unto death in pursuit of a cause, however madcap and hopeless. Every city needs competent police and alert intelligence – that is not diverted into the reckless surveillance of all and sundry.

No society has ever been free of sexual violence. Even in repressive societies, paedophiles and rapists find ways to commit their crimes, irrespective of the punishments. Whilst we can and should attempt to locate and punish the perpetrators of sexual violence, we should be balanced in our approach.

The best defence is a sense of proportion. The “war on terror” has failed on its own terms. It had made dozens of countries not pacified but terrified.

It is wrong to campaign against rape as if fighting a war, because this is one war that can never be won. Vilifying men may inhibit them, but it will cause resentment too.

By deploying violence against a succession of Muslim states, the world’s leading powers have made their business its business and invited retaliation.

Punishing rapists is a sign that states sanction the use of brutal treatment as a way to resolve honest disputes. This is a mistake. Men are physically stronger than women and children. If treated with brutality, men will reciprocate with escalating violence.

They have not crushed al-Qaida any more than they have suppressed extreme Islamism. They have refreshed rather than diminished that extremism, and made the world less safe as a result.

Criminalizing rape has not ended rape, and chasing paedophiles has just driven them underground. When governments try to alter human nature, they provoke more harm than good.

Of course, I disagree with Sir Simon Collins. Collins blames the victims for the crime. The fault, in his mind, lies in inciting the crime, by going to a shopping mall. His argument is that the victims sealed their own fate by going to the mall, because shopping and malls are associated with the enemies of the terrorists. This is wrong, because every free person is the terrorist’s enemy. Terrorists, like rapists, seek to control through violence. That makes terrorists the enemy of every free person. Peace-loving free people should not respond to violence by staying home, or by covering their bodies. Freedom means making our own choices, not making the choices permitted by our persecutors. Those freedoms include the freedom to shop in a swanky mall, and the freedom to display their bodies.

The murders in Nairobi will never agree with my last sentence. That is why we will never be free, if we respond to their provocations by bending to their will. Every time we change to suit them, we grant them a victory, we strengthen them, and we encourage to take more of our freedoms away. But the truth is that they can never take our freedom away, even by killing us. We can live free, or we can live longer, in prisons that we construct for ourselves. The battle for freedom that has been fought by countless numbers of men and women, across countless battlefields, both literal and metaphorical. We fight that battle at home, and abroad. We fight that battle even when doing the little ordinary things in life, like choosing where we go, and what we wear. The enemies of freedom are clear about their intentions. Unfortunately for the rest of us, elitists like Sir Simon Collins are confused about what to do, and they seek to spread that confusion. But the best response is also the simplest response: be what you are and do what you will, and damn all those who seek to control you through fear and violence.

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