As I write this, a terrorist has been detained for an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. It would be hypocritical to refrain from guessing the motive. When bombs went off in Paris, I was almost certain it was ISIS or an intimately linked ideological group from a very early stage. If a lone wolf targets Planned Parenthood just a few months after Planned Parenthood were embroiled in a widely publicised scandal, it's not difficult to guess - forgoing complete certainty - that the motivation was probably somehow related to an anti-abortion ideology.
As a pro-life pacifist, this action was completely inconsistent with my beliefs - and with virtually every pro-lifer's beliefs. How many pro-lifers would endorse killing pro-life, Christian police officers, as the Colorado shooter did? Unsurprisingly (to someone who is actually involved in the pro-life movement), not one of my pro-life friends has condoned the attacks. On the contrary, virtually all of them have offered explicit, clear condemnations of the attack.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Islamist violence in Paris was met with an incredible response: non-Muslim Europeans reaching out a hand not only to Muslims, but even to the perpetrators: 'you will not have my hatred', Antoine Leiris heroically declared, grieving his wife's murder. Nearly a year previously, Australians banded together against anti-Muslim reactionaries, with the #illridewithyou hashtag defying those who would use Islamist terrorism to cast a shadow over all Muslims.
Not all Muslims are terrorists. Indeed, only a tiny proportion are. As a recent viral image over Facebook points out, if even 10% of Muslims in the US supported ISIS or carried out similar attacks, that would amount to 300,000 Muslims. And if that many Muslims supported ISIS, the country would be in much graver danger than it is now. But on the other hand, with over half the US population - including an enormous number of Muslims - identifying with the pro-life cause, that makes around 120 million people sympathetic to it, children excluded. And yet before today, no more than ten people in the entire history of the US pro-life movement have been killed. That is still ten people too many - as the early church, who founded the pro-life movement but who condemned all violence in any circumstance, would have said. But if the tens of millions of Americans who sympathise with the pro-life cause all endorsed this sort of violence, is it not likely that many, many more shootings would have happened?
I appreciate that pro-lifers do not experience the same mistreatment as Muslims after these sorts of events. I would not even say that it is close. Thankfully, violence against pro-lifers is rare (though not exceptionally rare - I know a number of friends who have been assaulted because of their views). But nor is it a nice experience to be a pro-lifer - at least not in the UK, where the movement has a far more hostile audience. I have not experienced violence, but I have experienced the rest: unfair generalisation, hatred, ostracism, vilification, abuse, and attempted career sabotage. And while I am comfortable enough getting the bus on my own, it is not easy to imagine someone wanting to sit next to me on the bus after yesterday's attack.
Most of this is water off a duck's back: if you've been a vocal pro-lifer at a secular university, you soon learn how to thicken your skin. But that does not make the generalisations any fairer. Calluses are not hard to come by, but nor are generalisations. Already, I have been accused by strangers of encouraging the sort of violence displayed yesterday and of being complicit in terrorism - a strange thing for a pacifist to hear. And though I may be used to it, it is no less unfair or cruel than is accusing ordinary Muslims of the same. If you're happy to take pride in your openness to Muslims, your willingness to love them, ride the bus with them and not make hasty generalisations about them, I trust that you are capable of affording the same charity to your pro-life friends. The Colorado gunman committed a heinous act yesterday. But Not In My Name.Suggest a correction