Counter-terrorism research student Shazan Iqbal argues that condemnations of yesterday’s Woolwich attack are fruitless unless British foreign policy is addressed.
Almost immediately as the Woolwich story broke yesterday the media and politicians went into their customary Islamophobic frenzy. A man of “Muslim appearance” was responsible, we were told. What is it that makes this individual appear to be a Muslim? Is it his stone island jacket? His beanie hat? Or the colour of his skin? We were instantly told of it being an “Islamist terror attack.”
Politicians and media outlets alike couldn’t restrain their feelings, describing the events as “sickening,” “barbaric” and “horrific.” There was calls for “all communities to condemn” these acts, and the Muslim organisations duly obliged.
A series of Imams and “community leaders” appeared on news channels unanimously condemning what took place. There was, however, one rational voice amongst all the furore. That voice was Asghar Bukhari of The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC). Bukhari also condemned what took place but he was unambiguous in stating the two reasons for the occurrence of such events – foreign policy and the failings of British Imams.
From 7/7 to the yesterday’s events in Woolwich and all the alleged attempted attacks in between, there has been one common theme. All of the individuals involved have mentioned the reasons for their actions being British foreign and domestic policy towards Muslims.
Mohammad Sidique Khan and his associates even went to the trouble of producing video recordings stating that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were the reasons behind their actions. Likewise yesterday’s suspects did not attempt to escape, rather they asked the public to film their message of this attack being a response to British foreign policy.
It is also worth noting that these men had the opportunity to substantially inflict more damage on other members of the public, instead they conversed with them relatively calmly. The target was quite clearly an individual linked to the military which clearly indicates that it is a backlash of what has taken place during British occupation of Muslim countries.
Successive governments have consistently denied any link between the injustices they are committing against Muslims and the likely reaction to this oppression. They have labelled anyone who states this quite obvious reality as “terrorist sympathisers” in order to silence any legitimate criticism of its aggression.
Regarding this link Tony Blair bluntly attacked Islam stating: “Understand one thing – they believe in what they believe in because they believe their religion compels them to believe in it.”
The second failing comes from our Imams and “community leaders” who are reluctant to emphasise the importance of these factors in motivating individuals to resort to such actions. We have heard a unanimous chorus of condemnations but the question we should be asking is whether this condemnation will prevent further acts such as these?
Rightly or wrongly these individuals have some grievances that must be acknowledged and resolved. Counter-terrorist experts condemn such an approach of silencing the genuine grievances of the Muslim community as it can force such views underground and make them susceptible to “extremists” who may offer simple solutions, as we have witnessed.
This should be ample evidence for our Imams that if they are truly concerned with preventing the repetition of such events, which some have described as a “disservice to God and a disservice to Islam,” then they need to be at the forefront amplifying our concerns and not dancing to the tune of the government and media.
As previously mentioned the establishment was instant in conveying its disgust at yesterday’s events and even quicker at linking it to Islam. Seldom do we here similar abhorrence at the murdering, raping and oppression British and Western forces commit against young, women and elderly Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2011 a British soldier stabbed a 10 year old innocent Afghani child to death, in response he was given a petty 18 month sentence. There was no public outcry, no horrification, nor condemnation. Such events of taking innocent lives are not rare occurrences in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Similarly crimes committed by Muslims or people “of Muslim appearance” are portrayed as acts of “Islamic Terrorism.” The same criteria is not applied for other religions. A 29 year old Christian man who decapitated a British grandmother claimed he was an “Angel of Jesus Christ.” In spite of this he was never referred to as a Christian terrorist. Likewise 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem was murdered on his way home from the Masjid, no mention of terrorism has been made.
Within minutes of yesterday’s events social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were bombarded with messages from members of the English Defence League (EDL) and other racists thirsty for “revenge.” Fuelled by the Islamophobic media these degenerates stated how they wanted to “kill all Muslims” and “Blow up all mosques.” These were not isolated threats, I personally read dozens of similar messages. And they were not empty threats, Gillingham Masjid in Kent was attacked and there have been unconfirmed reports of other Masjids being attacked.
The right-wing will use yesterday as an excuse to attack Masjids, women and elderly Muslims indiscriminately because we are constantly on the back foot taking apologetic stances. If we sincerely want to avoid such events reoccurring then we must come out and put the case forward that these unfortunate scenes are reactions to the atrocities committed against Muslims worldwide.