In Britain it took us hundreds of years to get the right to vote—something all of us should all treasure, respect and use.
Yet there are places where even taking part in an election could lead to execution.
In Libya, where we aided the removal of that country’s leader, Gadaffi, his regime has been replaced.
ISIS (Islamic State) is spreading like a rampant cancer. In Kenya, supporters like Al Shabab are murdering innocent civilians. Their influence is rising in Tunisia and Egypt, right up to the Turkish border. Tunis is just over 100 miles from Sicily.
Of the many things ISIS despise—such as Western education, music, dancing, literature, art, gender equality, ancient cultures and archaeology—taking part in an election is high on their list and could warrant beheading or crucifixion.
ISIS is not an organisation anyone can negotiate with. It justifies its actions with claims to Islam’s name and those loyal to the faith. Even al-Qaida, which the vast majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected and condemned, considers ISIS too violent.
It is driven by a hatred which we in the West created through colonialism, occupation and the rapacious quest for oil. Europe and the US have assumed the religious identity of The Great Satan. That’s us, folks.
The illegitimate act of attacking Iraq in 2003 magnified our cultural ignorance, and we are now reaping the whirlwind. With every drone strike that kills innocent civilians, more volunteers flock to ISIS’ black flag.
Why is this so incomprehensible? Even some leading lights in the Pentagon do not know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims. In Iraq, that difference is literally a matter of life and death.
ISIS regards Shias as apostates who must be killed—stemming from their belief over who inherited the mantle of the Prophet Muhammad. Shias believe Islam is transmitted through the household of Muhammad. Sunnis believe that it descends through followers of the Prophet: his chosen people.
It is over-simplistic, but we could compare Shiites to those Catholics who venerate members of the Holy family at their shrines. Sunnis are more like Tudor Protestants who destroyed shrines and churches.
Anyone, including most of the world’s Shia Muslims who reject the lethal cherry-picking of Islam’s ancient texts, could be regarded as an ‘Infidel’—at risk of murder over something which happened in the 7th century. ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his ‘Caliphate’ have, therefore, united the greater Muslim world against them.
So think how lucky we are when we vote on May 7, and let’s hope the Sicilian Coast Guard is keeping a good watch.