Thursday, 23 May 2013

Woolwich terror attack: Is Islam to blame?

After the tragic attack occurring in London yesterday, a wave of racism sped across social media and news outlets.

Woolwich, London
Shaun Ingledew

The murder of a British soldier in the London district of Woolwich yesterday led to a media frenzy. The suspected murderer, Michael Olumide Adebolajo, is a British Muslim of Nigerian descent whose politically motivated attack, against the war in Afghanistan, was quickly misconstrued as a religious one. Following these events, racism raised its ugly head both on social media and through news outlets culminating in a march by the anti-Muslim English Defence League and much distress. The news media were quick to make the strenuous jump towards Islam, which has become basis for this story. However, this link is not always made, especially when the perpetrators are Christian; only a fortnight ago a 75 year old Pakistani man was brutally murdered with a machete in Birmingham in an allegedly racist attack. But that attack received little to no news coverage.

The despicable actions carried out by Olumide Adebolajo yesterday were a demonstration of idiocy and narcissism rather than religion. The western media’s readiness to attribute these actions to Islam left many people feeling threatened by 'Islamic' extremism. Rather, maniacs use Islam as an excuse for their own violence and aggression and receive 24 hour news coverage in return. The reports seldom notify us that Islam widely condemns violence; as the Quran, Islam's holiest scripture, says: "Whosoever killed a person - unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land - it shall be as if he killed all mankind and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind." (Quran 5:32)

Many incidents highlight the stark difference between our portrayal of 'Islamic' terrorism and non-Islamic terrorism, but there are few more apt than that of the Irish Republican Army. During the 1980s and 1990s, The IRA in Ireland strongly identified themselves with the Catholic church, killing people in the name of God and Christianity. The obvious contradictions in the IRA's 'Christian terrorism' were picked up by the British media and the relationship was quickly and rightly dismissed. The IRA were portrayed as a political movement rather than a religious one. Although I wasn’t around at the time, I doubt there were many people demanding all British Catholics 'go back to where they came from' (Vatican City would struggle to populate such a number).

So why has this distinction not been made between terrorism and Islam in Britain as it was between terrorism and Catholicism? Michael Olumide Adebolajo, the Boston bombers and even Osama bin Laden all cited political motives such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They may have used religion to justify their insane and evil actions, but there seems little difference between their modus operandi and that of the IRA. One major reason for these unfathomable distinctions lies with the media. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail scaremonger impressionable people with misleading stories, which are then transformed by organisations (a term I use very loosely) such as the English Defence League to incite hatred against Islam and Muslims. Sadly, these misleading stereotypes are all too readily accepted en masse by sections of the public. @shauningledew


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