On Christmas Day my 11-year-old daughter helped me understand the Muslim fanatics who murdered the French satirists at Charlie Hebdo, two weeks before the crime. She took the cigarettes of one of our dinner guests and threw them into our back hedge.
Taking someone's property and throwing it away is dreadful behaviour. My daughter is not an unusually naughty child. She would not dream of throwing away a guest's wallet, scarf or anything else I can think of. But she has been taught to indulge herself concerning cigarettes.
Cigarettes are wicked, or so she has been told by her school teachers and by government advertisements on TV. The normal respect for property is no longer required. By stealing our guest's cigarettes and trying to destroy them, my daughter could enjoy a little thuggery while believing herself to be virtuous.
An important part of bringing her up is teaching her never to indulge the desire to push people around. Alas, she is endlessly told the opposite by self-declared goody-goodies who demand that everything they disapprove of be illegal, from snorting cocaine to simultaneously having more than one spouse. My daughter is told that it is quite proper to push around those with whom you disagree - or, as it is put to her, those with incorrect values.
Of course, my daughter and her moral tutors do not want to slaughter smokers or satirists. They are not as angry or bleak or deranged as the Parisian killers and the others who have committed ideologically motivated atrocities.
But they have the same basic urge - to compel, to dominate. And they seek justification for it in the supposed vices of their victims. On Boxing Day my daughter wrote an essay, aimed at her mother, who also occasionally smokes, about the evils of smoking. How righteous her vandalism had been!
We humans are not perfectly good. We are inclined to kindness but also to cruelty: some more than others, but all of us sometimes. Ideologies that justify our cruelty will appeal to those most inclined to it. Today, Islam is more congenial to the violent than is any other major religion. That is why it is rightly damned, even if most Muslims are peaceful and undeserving of blame.
But we in the West should not forget the ideological violence that pervades our societies. In America about a million men are in jail because they have ingested or traded in substances politicians think they should not. United States politicians act like my sanctimonious, bullying daughter, except with the force of arms and without the excuse of immaturity.
Nor is it only American politicians who do this. In most Western countries a large percentage of those in prison are there, directly or indirectly, because of drug-taking. Far more Western lives have been destroyed by their states' anti-drugs violence than by Islamic violence.
Drugs are merely the most obvious example. All manner of matters that should be the concern only of those involved are dictated by the authorities.
Decisions Western governments do not leave to you and the adults you freely deal with include: how much money you work for, what you wear on your head when cycling, the quality of your house, what you eat, the race of the people you employ, the ways you kill yourself.
That only scratches the surface. Our governments regulate the behaviour of their citizens with a previously unknown zeal and attention to detail. In any Western country of a decent size, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people are employed in devising these rules, monitoring our compliance with them, satisfying the authorities that we have complied with them, and fining or imprisoning those who fail to comply. And some of these efforts are even directed at controlling what we say.
Western leaders have rushed to condemn the Muslim terrorists' assault on freedom of speech. Yet many of their countries have laws banning statements that offend people on the basis of their sexuality, race or religion. Not long ago, the cartoonist, Al Nisbet, faced a backlash here for offending racial sensibilities, which is illegal in New Zealand.
Some Western politicians and commentators say we face a battle between freedom and tyranny. Nonsense. We face a battle between the imposition of one set of values and the imposition of another. Defy the prevailing Western centre-left sensibility, in action or speech, and you will be imprisoned.
Most of us will be desperate to avoid living under Muslim values. I, for one, will gladly fight for the West. But let's not confuse liberty with the meticulous soft-tyranny of fashionable Western morality, even when we agree with it.