Is this the most sensational knife – crime in London’s history?
This week saw another horrific knife crime murder on the streets of London. This one was particularly shocking as it was an attempted beheading allegedly done in the name of Islam. This led it, unlike the many stabbings and killings by edged weapons which sadly take place in London, do be deemed an act of ‘terror’.
Instantly the EDL demonstrated in Woolwich and at least two mosques were attacked. The Prime Minister exonerated Islam of guilt and appealed for calm.
There is no doubt that this attack is to be condemned as an abhorrent murder and Islamicly illicit. Further, there is no doubt that we are all to give our sympathies to the family of the murdered soldier.
However, let’s calm down and think about this for a minute, as Glen Greenwald has here:
What is really concerning here are two things; first of all, that the murder of a soldier, though no doubt unconscionable and horrific, can be labelled, at least for starters, not as a murder by two unhinged individuals but as an act of ‘terrorism’. Despite our sadness at the attack, it is unhelpful to not challenge this narrative, as Greenwald shows, since this is counter-productive in allowing an unacceptably broad definition of ‘terrorism’. It also feeds fear and hysteria, with the Prime Minister saying we will not be intimidated by these horrendous acts, but at the same time (somewhat self contradictorily) labelling them a terrorist attack. As Greenwald eloquently showed, there is seemingly no way in which to see this as a genuine terrorist strike.
Second is the assumption that the Muslim community should be seen to apologise publicly and profusely for this incident. They should not only be sorry but be seen to be sorry. Why? And why do they need to be in fear of reprisals? This is the exact same logic as the perpetrators of the act itself: they are willing to make ‘reprisals’ on random off-duty soldiers for the perceived crimes of their colleagues abroad. Just as the 9-11 or 7/7 bombers thought it was legitimate to attack the civilian populations of countries who they considered as being ‘aggressors’. The fact that millions of British Muslims should now ‘watch it’ shows that the mentality of large segments of the British media and public may in fact hold to the same kind of polarisation that the terrorists themselves do. In foreign policy this is very evident, with targeted assassinations and civilian causalities or victimisation by sanctions being par for the course if you are not brave enough to ‘rise up’ against unfavoured regimes. We then engage in the same absurd intellectual and factual gymnastics to label these strikes as ‘acts of war’ and not terror that we have engaged in to try and paint Wednesdays’ horrific murder as a terrorist attack. But the logic of exaggeration and collective punishment is disturbingly similar.
The important question which Muslims and non-Muslims should be asking is that if a community should have to ‘check itself’ due to one murder, then what happens if there is a larger attack? What Muslims and their countrymen do not want to face is the reality this attack exposes about community relations in the U.K: after a decade or more of wars aboard and media caricaturing of Islam at home, large sections of the British public have become so agitated against Islam that the situation is like powder keg waiting for the right spark. Muslims know it, community leaders know it: even the Prime Minister knows it, which is why, in an out of character statement, he made the exoneration of Muslims and community cohesion the centrepiece of his response.
This was no accident: he knows full well what the irresponsible ramblings of both Right and Left in the UK have done over the last decade: leave the Muslim community extremely vulnerable. We all know it, this is why it took a non-Muslim like Greenwald to issue the ‘calm down’ orders that he courageously did. If a Muslim had made the same point, he would not have received a platform in the first place and if he had, he would have been berated for not being ‘apologetic’ enough.
That did not stop ‘kill all Muslims’ trending on Twitter. How’s that for a proportionate response?
But the logic of: ‘Your community needs to explain what members of it, no matter how few, did to members of my community. Right now. Or else!’ is sadly common to radicals and the wider British society. While the Prime Minster and much of the media were right to call for calm (but then, what was the alternative?), at the same time, they both inflated this tragedy as much as possible. And they inflated it in an unacceptable way.
Would British society tolerate it if every-time there was a racist murder or even an Islamophobic murder, (like the apparent killing of a 75 year-old man returning from mosque recently who was stabbed in no less of an indiscriminate or brutal manner than the poor soldier:http://m.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/02/birmingham-murder-racially-motivated-police) people from the affected community demanded that it be labelled an ‘act of terror’ and insisted that relevant representatives of the perpetrators community (in the above case ‘white people’) be seen to visibly and excessively ‘apologise’? We would all recognise that as absurd. But not so for this tragic killing.
Muslims can’t see the wood for the trees: in not highlighting the narrative of escalating responsibility that is being placed on the Muslim community as Greenwald has bravely done, they are sowing the seeds for their future persecution. They are understandably afraid to say ‘Hang on, let’s calm down’ for fear of not being seen as being ‘sorry enough’. But by going along with the narrative, they are further undermining their right as equal citizens and feeding into the ‘us and them’ narrative where attacks on ‘us’ are disproportionately hideous compared to acts against ‘them’ – the common thread that links the terrorist mindset with that of British the media, and sadly, wider society.
”Yet rather than treating this as a knife crime committed by two deluded men, the authorities and media have treated it as a declaration of war. The powers-that-be have gone on to an actual war footing in response to it…Politicians say we will ‘stand firm’ in response to what happened, as if Britain had just been invaded by a foreign army rather than having witnessed a horrible knife attack. Meanwhile, the media have transformed the two stabbers into massive threats to Britons. ‘You people will never be safe’, screams the front page of the Guardian…
The authorities’ overreaction to this act of murder represents a kind of unwitting moral collusion with the terrorists. In a very real way, it completes their act of terror, by allowing it to have the kind of impact that the two men on their own could never have: freaking out the British public, bringing the political class to its knees, and putting the security forces on high alert. In its response to the Woolwich murder, British society has thoughtlessly sent out a clear and quite scary message: if you want to hold the British political elite to ransom and transform yourself into an instantly famous representative of modern-day, civilisation-rattling evil, then all you need to do is carry out one bloody act on a street somewhere in London. You know what would have been a far better response? If Cameron had stayed in Paris, if COBRA had never met, if the two stabbers had simply been arrested and investigated by the police alone, and if their act of pseudo-political knife crime was covered on page 4 or 5 of the papers, not on page 1.”