I remember when I was in sixth form we in our critical thinking class were discussing whether we thought the death penalty was right or not. Saddam Hussein had not long been executed which was why it had come up. It was certainly interesting to hear people's views, many were against it in principle but agreed that Hussein should die for what he'd done, others felt no one should undergo the death sentence no matter what and some (but not many) believed capital punishment is an effective deterrent to crime and should be reintroduced. Personally I am not in favour. I believe that all life is sacred, all life is precious. No one has a greater or lesser degree of dignity than another. We are all created equal, we share equally in the fact that our dignity stems from our being made in the image and likeness of God. I firmly believe that no one has the right to take the life of another. Michael Adebolajo had no right to murder Lee Rigby but the State has no right to execute him either. I know that many people are very angry about what happened, I too was shocked and appalled when I heard how brutal the attack was. Some would say that I am wrong to say that Adebolajo should live having done something so dreadful, that it isn't fair for him to keep on living, that his crime calls for the supreme punishment and to stop further attacks of this nature we need to have a hard line on people like him.
I have several issues with all this.
1) Assuming that there will be more attacks like this and capital punishment is the required antidote/deterrent is scare mongering. There is no evidence that there will be a wide scale attack upon our service men and women by Muslim extremists. From what I have understood thus far from the media reports there are a lot of questions that need answering about why he was allowed to settle here when he had a history of extremism etc. but there is no sign of any imminent threat. And one reason this attack was so deeply distressing is that we have never seen anything like this happen before, there have not been previous murders like this. Jumping the gun is only more likely to make people paranoid and hostile than protect us from threats.
2) Michael Adebolajo is a human being. Yes he has committed a terrible, terrible crime but he is still a human person. He deserves to be punished, don't get me wrong, but we must not lose sight of his humanity. Adebolajo didn't see Rigby as a person with equal dignity, equal humanity which is why he did what he did but we should not demean ourselves by coming down to that level, letting hatred cloud our eyes that we see a human life as no longer worthy of living. This makes us as bad as him and the preachers that influenced him. We must take the higher ground.
3) Capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to crime. Countries that have it still have murders and hate crimes committed, the thought of "what might happen if I'm caught" evidently doesn't cross their minds, they either believe they won't be caught or, like Adebolajo they want to be to publicise what they've done and why.
4) Capital punishment is not about justice, it is about revenge. It is about getting our 'pound of flesh' our 'eye for an eye' when the response that we need to give is forgiveness. We need to give it not only to stop ourselves from forgetting the value of every human life but we also need to forgive if we are to properly mourn and heal. Hatred is insidious; it festers in the heart, makes us bitter as resentful, it eats away at us, hurting us ever more deeply, fragmenting us. Forgiving those who do us harm lets love rule in us and not hatred, that doesn't mean we are doormats but are not consumed by our anger. It helps to keep us whole and to move forward.
5) We need a penal system that reforms criminals as well as punishes. It's all well and good to say we need deterrents but we need to stop the cycle of reoffending too. Deterrent alone won't work.
I agree something needs to be done to stop the radicalisation of young people. I don't know what, I can't give that answer but I do know acting out of anger and a desire for vengeance will only make things worse. We will make things worse. Lee Rigby's family need our love and support not our loud cries for blood. Will executing Adebolajo bring Lee back? No. Will it heal the wounds? No. Will it help at all? No. Forgiveness is the hardest path to take, but it is the most fruitful and the most worthwhile.