n.b. Throughout this post I use the term “racist” when referring to negative behaviour towards Muslims. I am conscious of the fact that race and religion are not necessarily always linked, but am unaware of the term to be used when referring to prejudice/discrimination towards those of a particular religion. Any guidance on this would be greatly appreciated.
What happened in Woolwich was, without doubt, a hideous crime. Although I doubt there are any words that can be used, my thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Drummer Lee Rigby through what must be an indescribable time. I do not in any way want to take away from what happened to this brave soldier, but the after-effects of this crime will spread much, much further than this one attack.
The amount of racist remarks that have been thrown around in the aftermath of Lee Rigby’s death has been unbelievable. People have used their “British pride” as an excuse to disguise inexcusable racism. Blanket stereotypes have been offhandedly applied to every Muslim who lives in this country – un-British, violent, terrorist. Let’s try and take these in turn.
Michael Adebolajo was British. I’ve seen numerous people attempt to say he is not British, nobody British would kill a member of our Armed Forces. Whilst it is understandable for people to want to distance themselves from his actions, what he did does not make him any less British. Being British is not a state of mind, it is a nationality, and not one which can be applied to people dependent on their actions. People calling for this man’s deportation appear to forget that you cannot deport someone who is British, in the same way as they seem to forget that our country is home to many British Muslims who bring a great deal of culture to our communities. Not every Muslim in this country is an immigrant – although I fail to see how that would be particularly relevant even if the opposite was true.
Michael Adebolajo did not murder Lee Rigby on behalf of Islam. Many people jump at that statement to point out that he explained himself that he committed the crime on behalf of his religion, but the reality is that this man nominated himself to attempt to speak on behalf of Muslims when he does not. The Muslim Council of Britain was quick to distance themselves from this odious crime; Muslims from all across the country took to social media to express their disgust at such actions from a religion of peace. But why should they have to? When Christians in the UK commit crimes, there is no front page story suggesting he did so on behalf of their god, there is no need for Christians to come out in condemnation of his actions. When a Muslim commits a crime, he does so because he is a Muslim. Why? Because it is easier to persecute a minority. Because ignorance means people don’t take the time to understand a religion. Because people are fearful of things they don’t understand.
Some of the things which Adebolajo said could be considered food for thought, as thoughtfully pointed out by this former soldier – hatred is being stirred up in countries where Muslims are dying every day. People can rightfully feel outraged at what is happening abroad, I certainly do, but it goes without saying – but I’ll say it for the record – this is obviously not the right way to go about it.
The word “terrorism” was bandied around immediately based on the religion of the criminal. There is no doubt that any act of terrorism should be rightly condemned. But the question has to be asked – would it have been a terrorist attack were the murderer white, or not Muslim? What of the terror that will now come from racists, who will persecute innocent Muslims based on the actions of one vile, psychopathic killer?
And what of those innocent people? Innocent Muslims who will now face a vicious backlash from disgusting racists who are capitalizing on an atrocious crime to fuel their own hate-filled agenda. Racists who will use the death of a soldier to stir up tensions amongst communities.
I am not scared of Muslims. I am scared for Muslims. I am scared of the ignorance and bigotry of members of right-wing organisations like the EDL who think the right way to deal with this situation is to fight hatred with hatred. Frankie Boyle summed it up perfectly “I think the EDL wanted to make a point about Muslims not respecting British law, and what better way to do that than to fight the police?” Thugs and bullies who are as stupid as they are hateful, with a leader who thinks its acceptable to describe Islam as “the opposite side of the same coin as Nazism” and not appreciate the irony of such a comment from someone who heads an organization intent on ridding the country of a particular religion. One which calls for the banning of burkhas being worn in public, yet run around wearing balaclavas to terrorise people.
The backlash has already begun, and highlights the ignorance of stereotyping. Innocent people are being targeted as a result of one or two peoples’ actions. Now, by that logic, does this soldier represent the entire British Army? Am I doing stereotyping right? And of course, its been a great opportunity for racists to further their cause – I asked for a source of statistics from one guy’s tweet and he sent me back a link to a blog called “The Muslim Issue” with no links to any clear, true statistics. He asked “why would anyone make those figures up?” Need I say more?
And videos such as the one featuring Stacey Dooley, which I’m not going to share, circulating so soon after an attack like this is no coincidence. Videos like that about groups of Muslims are about as representative as the EDL is of the English. Obviously it’s fine for white, Christian, or atheist people to have demonstrations. I didn’t agree with the actions of the police when it came to Alfie Meadows – are people going to come after me? Smash my windows? Call for my death as racists have called for the death of Muslims? It is not a crime to disagree with the police – only to break the law, and if someone does break the law, they should be punished accordingly. People mask their racism – be it casual or otherwise – as “well, if they don’t like this country, they shouldn’t live here”. I don’t particularly like this country – its extremely difficult to be enthusiastic about a country which is full of so much hatred – but nobody calls for me to leave the country because I’m white.
If you have a problem with the justice system, if you think this country is too soft on people, then that’s a legitimate opinion to hold. What isn’t legitimate, however, is directing that view at a certain section of society. There are criminals in every race and religion, it is not something which is only true of Islam, and to suggest otherwise is extremely damaging.
I have deleted family members and “friends” from my Facebook following what happened in Woolwich. Someone accused me of “shutting down debate”. Anybody who has engaged in a discussion with me will know I’m more than happy to debate until the cows come home on issues such as the bedroom tax or Trident. What I will not do, is give racists a platform in the form of my Facebook to spread their hatred. I will not subject my friends to that.
(Of course, now they all see fit to write statuses about me and bitch about me because “I can’t take their opinion”. I’ve heard many opinions surrounding this tragedy, but anyone who thinks its acceptable to use the term “Muslims Bastards” is no “friend” of mine. I’ve also been accused of not being consistent in my thinking. Apparently somebody bought up Mick Philpott, although for what reason I’m unsure. I was as equally outraged at what Mick Philpott did, but also at the way the media treated him based on his own circumstances – in that case the fact he was on benefits rather than his religion or race. So there you go.)
Someone asked me what sort of country I would be bringing my kids into if we let Muslims “overrun our society”. My answer was simple: “Right now, I’d be bringing my children into a country full of intolerance, prejudice and hatred. One full of stereotyping, violence and Islamaphobia. I think that threat is much more significant.”