Belfast Telegraph

We sow hatred in our babies' minds, not just in their bibs

By Lindy McDowell

A California-based internet company is reported to be doing brisk trade in baby clothes - T shirts and bibs - promoting jihad.

A baby pink vest with comfy interlock sleeves features the snappy slogan 'Khilafah will be back soon.' (The khilafah or caliphate refers to the establishment of a single Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.)

Or perhaps you might consider as a baby present the little white bodysuit with the message: "As for the disbelievers (Christians) they shall have Everlasting Torture, a painful doom."

There might not be a whole lot of demand for the unusual infant range in these parts.

But before we sneer too much it's worth remembering that our own neighbourhood jihadists - with their own plans for delivering localised Everlasting Torture - are not beyond promoting violence among the very young.

It wasn't so long ago for example, that pictures appeared in this paper showing small children dressed in paramilitary garb clutching fake weaponry.

Is that really all that different?

In the past week the widespread public outpouring of disgust at the actions of the so-called dissidents has been heartening.

It's right, and important, that ordinary people should demonstrate that brutal murder is not being carried out in their name.

But just as we know that the violence will continue, we also know the murdering scum who carry out these attacks do have some small level of support.

There are people who know them, who know or at least suspect what they do, who are not coming forward with information.

And we are kidding ourselves if we think that all is changed utterly in terms of cross-community unity in the wake of their most recent upsurge in violence.

All these years after the Belfast Agreement featured that image of a family walking towards a clichéd new dawn of hope there is still not a whole lot of evidence here of efforts made to bring different communities together.

Peace walls still divide one section of the working class from the other. Our children are, by and large, still educated separately.

It is still possible to grow up here, to go to school, get a job, find a partner, live out a life while having only very limited contact with people of another religion.

Old grievances haunt us; old wounds have not been healed. We know the way the dissidents' campaign will go because we have lived through it before. They are working to a familiar template.

The sins of former terrorist godfathers are being visited upon our children.

The rest of us may be revolted and reject the violence. But while there is even a whiff of support in those areas where the killers operate (and they're not all on the republican side) they will remain a threat to the entire population.

This is the most crucial debate of the day and it is ordinary people who need to take the lead in steering another generation away from the horror of the past.

We can all see that an extremist slogan on a baby's T- shirt is vile. But how many extremist slogans have been implanted in the hearts of children here?

Division breeds suspicion and hatred. We all recognise that.

Our tragedy is that we just don't seem to be able to do anything to change it.

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