Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Woolwich attack: nothing but barbarity

Michael Adebolajo claims his murder of Lee Rigby was motivated by British foreign policy. This is a nonsensical excuse.

Michael Adebolajo
by Dur-e-Aden

Last week's murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by a man wielding a knife and a meat cleaver was an act distinctive in its barbarity. Although news of beheadings might be expected in war torn areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it was surprising that it happened in broad daylight in a busy London street. However, even more shocking, disturbing and disgusting was the way in which the attacker reacted and gave his justification for the murder. Michael Adebolajo (the person who is identified as the primary suspect), described this attack as revenge for British foreign policy. While blood was still dripping from his hands, Adebolajo went on a rant in front of a camera and explained: "The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers." He went on: "We swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone". Adebolajo asked: "What if we want to live by the shariah in Muslim lands? Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us?" He ended on a rather surprising note, encouraging the overthrow of western governments and calling for citizens to 'tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace'. (Notice the shift from 'fighting you' to 'our troops').

Though anger came from all sections of society, there were some who also thought British foreign policy did have something to do with Adebolajo's crime and this was the point that I didn’t understand; after all, its not like there is any Muslim country in the world which has a perfect human rights record and is not involved in the oppression of Muslims. Turkey is accused of violating the rights of its Kurdish communities (who are Muslim), Baloch groups (who are Muslim) complain about their human rights violations in Pakistan, the Taliban (who are Muslim) oppress other Muslims but have in the past been supported by Muslim countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Iran are accused of fighting their sectarian battles in other people’s lands which often result in horrific body counts (Syria anyone?). Now should all the soldiers and leaders of these countries be beheaded on streets as well?

I am not suggesting that it is wrong to disagree with British foreign policy, especially when it has been disastrous as in the case of the Iraq war. However, unlike most Muslim-majority states in the world today, Britain is an open society which provides a lot of avenues for its citizens to participate in politics and voice their concerns irrespective of religious differences. It is quite surprising that organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir which are banned in some Muslim countries are openly allowed to operate in Britain and spew the venom of their hate filled agenda because of their right to freedom of speech.

Moreover, there are Muslims in the British Parliament (people like Khalid Mahmood and Yasmeen Qureshi for example) and to Mr Adebolajo’s dismay also in the British Army. In fact Armed Forces Senior Imam, Asim Hafiz, said: "There are nearly a thousand Muslims serving in the Armed Forces. They are proud to serve alongside their comrades, one of whom they tragically lost yesterday. The Armed Forces are about defending the United Kingdom and everyone who lives in this country - Muslim and non-Muslims."

As far as the question of shariah goes, it is interesting to note that Britain allows much more freedom of religion to its citizens than any Muslim majority country in the world, especially more than those countries who claim to be following shariah. In Britain, every sect of Muslims can practice their faith as they like. While it is true that Britain does not have shariah at a state level, it still allows shariah courts to operate in the country in order to handle family issues. Moreover, shariah is lot more complicated than simply the institutionalisation of four or five laws at state level. It is a process of making yourself a better person, 'a path to life giving water' which involves things like speaking the truth, paying charity, no-back biting, praying, fasting etc and the majority of these things don’t require state institutionalisation.

In the vocabulary of Us vs Them that was used by the Woolwich attacker, he seems to have forgotten that its not only Muslims but also a lot of non-Muslim British citizens who disagree with British foreign policy. Some of the biggest demonstrations against the war in Iraq were in London. Not to mention that after this attack, as hate crimes against Muslims spiked, it was the law-enforcement agencies of Britain which not only arrested some of the alleged culprits but also provided security to other sensitive Islamic areas like mosques to protect its citizens, again irrespective of religious differences. In addition, David Cameron in his speech made it clear that 'this was not just an attack on Britain and the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam...we will defeat extremism by standing together' and that 'the fault lies solely and purely with the sickening individuals who carried out this appalling attack.' His words were praiseworthy especially at a time when far right movements in Britain are criticising him for being a 'PR man for Islam' (just read some of the comments under YouTube videos of his speech).

Hence the actions of Woolwich attacker are not deserving of any sympathy whatsoever. They were a result of a misguided ideology which took a very simplistic view of the world without critically thinking about all the underlying nuances of politics that underline so many of our current issues.@aden1990

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