With the seeming beheading of a British solder in south London earlier today British Muslims are bracing themselves for a backlash, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
We can expect the right-wing media to go into overdrive demonizing the Muslim community as a hotbed of fanatical extremists; we can expect calls for Muslim leaders to apologise for the behaviour of the two alleged perpetrators; and we can expect Twitter and Facebook to be flooded by vile Islamophobic and racist comments by members of the public.
Muslim women, especially, will be called names or worse in the street; Muslim men will be regarded with fear by passers-by; and politicians will wax lyrical about the dangers of extremism.
Support for the implementation of draconian anti-terror laws will be solidified; Abu Qatada will be fast-tracked out of the country; MI5 will argue that its budget should be increased to counter the threat of “al-Qaida-inspired” terrorism.
The establishment’s favourite Muslim patsies – the Quilliam Foundation – will be wheeled into TV studios to put the focus on extremism in Muslim communities. Right-wing, pro-Israel think-tanks like the Henry Jackson Society will be leaping up and down with glee at the chance to demonize Muslims.
British foreign policy
But of course no one will focus on the main cause of Muslim extremism in this country – British foreign policy – despite the fact that one of the alleged attackers highlighted this as the reason for the attack. Don’t forget Britain has invaded and occupied two Muslim countries in the last decade – Iraq and Afghanistan. It has bombed another as recently as last year – Libya. It is fuelling the conflict in Syria. It is a staunch supporter of Israel.
All these facts are the main drivers of radicalization and extremism – without them no Muslim would even think of attacking the West and its interests. They give fuel to the arguments of radicals who prey on naive young minds. But of course this will all be swept under the carpet in the nationalistic emotion of the moment.
Make no mistake, I have no sympathy whatsoever with terrorists or individuals who decide to act as judge and jury by meting out summary justice. I do not believe in the law of the jungle. But I do know that the world is not black and white and that terrorism doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. And I’m also sure that British state terrorism dwarfs “Muslim” terrorism by a million to one.
So what should Muslims do as the backlash inevitably comes? We should distance ourselves from the attacks and not apologize for them – after all, we are not responsible as a community. We should make it clear that these attacks are unlikely to stop until Britain’s foreign policy becomes more equitable. And we should stand up to the Islamophobes instead of always being on the defensive.
As for Muslim women – always the most vulnerable in times like this – well perhaps they should consider staying at home or at least not going out alone.
You can follow Roshan Muhammed Salih on Twitter @RMSalih