Hamasteopaths? Medical-Qaeda?

‘Doctor, doctor! I think I’m a sheep!’

‘Really? That’s baaaad…’

Ah, doctor-doctor jokes. They’re just not going to be the same after last week’s revelations of suspected bomb-plotters being on the NHS payroll. Now it will all be: ‘Doctor, doctor! I’m a wig-wam, I’m a teepee!’ ‘Your problem is you’re too tense. Take three gas-canisters and two thousand nails, go to Glasgow airport and call me in the morning. Allahu Achbar!’ (Two tents, geddit?)

And that is, I think you will agree, less funny than the original. What is kinda funny is a BUPA study that last week showed NHS consultants get private treatment themselves—and that was before we started worrying that all our nice young foreign doctors are potential Jihadis. Yes, BUPA, of all people, saying that the NHS is not up to scratch. What possible motivation could they have for saying that? The point is that last week’s news was full of shock and horror that doctors could have been involved in the recent failed bomb-attacks.

BBC Radio 4 had one of its reporters talking in tones of horror about how foreign doctors working in the UK are only screened and checked in terms of their qualifications and medical skills. Now I am all for letting more of the single, pretty ones in, but that is not what she meant at all. She went on to complain that currently there are no procedures in place to check on foreign doctors’ political sympathies. Because that would be relevant to saving lives, apparently. And acceptable in a society where freedom of conscience is protected.

How, asked other commentators, could people who had sworn to save lives end up trying to take lives? Did their Hippocratic oaths mean nothing to them? I am inclined to agree. Yet, if I have no fundamental problem with a trained British doctor joining the military, not in his professional capacity but to become a fighting soldier, should I ask the same questions of him? No. because, as the old saying goes: ‘there are no anaesthetists in foxholes.’

Much comment also revolved around the fact that this plot challenged the popular profile of a terrorist as an uneducated disaffected youth, easily manipulated and with nothing to live for. Another BBC commentator made the startling discovery that terrorists could be ‘intelligent, well-educated professionals’ and sounded perplexed. And if you see terrorists as madmen or dupes, then perplexing it must be. If you see them as people with a combination of deep (if, in my opinion misguided) religious faith and political determination, backed into a corner by a sense of powerlessness and overwhelming injustice at world events, it doesn’t seem so crazy. Just terrible.

Because killing innocent people, no matter what your cause, is terrible. And if we say that, then we cannot dismiss as ‘terrorist rantings’ their feeling that in Iraq and Afghanistan our own society has similarly erred. As Christians we cannot and must not support their methods, even if we sympathise with their frustration. But equally we have a duty to listen to and try to understand the reasons why decent, educated people would do this. As people of another absolute faith, who subscribe to higher standards than this society’s humanism and materialism and who also take martyrs as heroes, we are also extremists. But because we are called to love and forgiveness, we have a duty to help our secular society understand better where those less loving extremists are coming from, so that the violence can be stopped. Trying to censor political thought or continuing in the illusion that people must be mad or stupid to hate us will at best get us nowhere and at worst get us killed.

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One Response

  1. “Two tents, geddit”

    Not sure why, but this part of the joke went over my head.

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