But all this is rather uncomfortable territory for most of our leaders. Why address the actual cause of these atrocities and risk committing the ultimate crime in 21st century Britain – causing someone offence – when instead we can allow ourselves to be comfortably distracted by the EDL? Let’s pretend that the real threat to life and limb doesn’t come from those who approved of 9/11, 7/7 and Woolwich, but from some thugs who can barely spell “fascist”.
I noted one Tweet from Owen Jones, a well-known political commentator, last week extorting his followers to “Stand united against the EDL, in the tradition of all those who have stood against racism and fascism before”. I didn’t need to delve into his Twitter history to know that no similar exhortation had been made to stand firm against Islamism.
The irony is that Islamism is itself fascistic. It is violently intolerant of women’s and gay rights, and supportive of the Iranian regime’s policy of public hanging for homosexuals. It allows no room for individual freedom of expression and deals with its opponents in the most ruthless way. Saddam’s regime was explicitly and intentionally modelled on that of Nazi Germany’s.
And, of course, many commentators are more comfortable discussing the jihadists’ “justification” for the Woolwich attack. They will offer the cursory condemnation of violence that is expected of them, then spend the rest of their time explaining that “well, they have a point about Iraq, don’t they...?”
As it happens, they don’t. But even if they did, even if they believe that their own grievances are real, so what? EDL members have their own “justification” for their marches and aggression, but no one would ever say: “Well, they’ve got a point about the desecration of war memorials, haven’t they...?”
I understand the reticence of those who see the word “Islamist” and are reluctant to condemn it because, well, it sounds a lot like “Islam”, doesn’t it? After criticising adherents of Islamism on Twitter, it doesn’t take long for some oddball to accuse you of racism, either because they’ve misidentified the word or because they’re stupid.
Uncomfortable though it is for some, we need to examine the dark underbelly of what goes on in some of our mosques. True, the vast majority of British Muslims would never associate themselves with Islamism. Yet preachers of hate as well as their followers and fellow travellers, worship in the same buildings, speak to, work with, and are related to that sensible majority. And those law-abiding citizens have a duty to challenge them, expel them and, if necessary, report them to the authorities.
Calls for unity in the face of terrorism are correct and necessary. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the real implications of a nauseating act of violence against a brave young man who served our nation in its defence.
Focusing on the EDL might salve the conscience of some, but it’s a strategy that will come back to haunt us in the most awful way imaginable.
Tom Harris is the Labour MP for Glasgow South and Shadow Minister for the Environment in the House of Commons.