Why Can't We Be Outraged at the Woolwich Murder?

I, like everyone else in the country, was shocked and saddened by the tragic slaying of Lee Rigby in a London street on 22 May. But I was also saddened by something peculiar about the mainstream media's coverage of the aftermath of the event. There was a distinctly patronising tone, almost a disdain, reserved for those who were protesting in anger in the days following the attack. They were portrayed as thugs, criminals, lowlifes. The idea that they might have a point; that there might be a real debate to be had following this event, was quickly dismissed as rhetoric of the right-wing and bigoted. But why is it this way? Why is it so taboo to be honest about how we feel about our own country?

The murder and desecration of British solider Lee Rigby in a London street in broad daylight shocked me to my core. In today's environment of constant 24/7 bombardment of wars, violent conflicts and barbarous acts around the world I don't normally get shocked by much anymore, but something about the sheer brutality and barbarism of this heinous act made me genuinely appalled and disgraced. I felt like I'd spent a good portion of my life with a vague feeling of repression and discontent, unable to truly speak openly, until a moment of realisation, a voila moment, a 'tipping point' so to speak, the Woolwich murder, pushed me over the edge to the realisation that something is not quite right with this society. How could we let our society get to this point, where our own soldiers are being executed like dogs in our streets?

But then something else entirely disturbed me – I noticed that all of the major news networks, from the BBC to The Guardian to CNN and ITV were reporting on groups of British men and women who were protesting against Muslims in response to the murder. I'm not necessarily condoning anything they did, but it was the way they were portrayed that bothered me. Without exception, all of the protesters were portrayed as being extreme right-wing, racist, bigoted and xenophobic thugs. It was as if being angry at a British soldier executed in cold blood and hacked to death on his own streets was somehow an uncivilised and undignified act.

When did the British become a nation of such sops? Is it leftover colonial guilt? Or is it a more recent lingering guilt from the association with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan?

I've never been to Saudi Arabia or any fundamentalist Muslim country, but I don't imagine running down a Saudi soldier with a car in the middle of Riyadh, then butchering him with a cleaver and hacking him to death all while screaming praise of Christianity would go down too well. Do you think the Saudi media would try and actively besmirch its own citizens for protesting against such a vile act? Of course not. My guess is you'd be publicly executed to a throng of cheering and delighted hordes, and rightfully so.

This utter pussification of our culture is not just annoying, but dangerous, because it prevents people from asking legitimate and needed questions that could potentially prevent such terrorist events from happening in the future.

I'm not suggesting for a minute that we go around bashing up Muslims or burning Mosques or anything of the sort. But why can't we question things? Why can't we question the UK's near-open immigration policy and utter willingness to bend over to Muslim communities and requests without being immediately branded as vile racist scum? Why can't we suggest that it IS a real issue that Muslim communities in Britain are not entirely forthcoming about the extremist elements within their organisation, and they simply don't do enough to prevent extremist views from arising from within their own ranks?

The problem with the Muslim religious text, the Qur'an, is that while it may be a generally positive influence to humanity as a whole, there are certain passages within the text that undoubtedly provoke and encourage violence and revenge attacks on non-Muslims.

Here's some examples for you, if you don't believe me:

  • "The unbelievers are like beasts which, call out to them as one may, can hear nothing but a shout and a cry. Deaf, dumb, and blind, they understand nothing” (2:172)
  • “Theirs shall be a woeful punishment” (2:175)
  • “Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage. . . . if they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers”(2:190–93)
  • “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not” (2:216)
  • “They will not cease to fight against you until they force you to renounce your faith—if they are able. But whoever of you recants and dies an unbeliever, his works shall come to nothing in this world and in the world to come. Such men shall be the tenants of Hell, wherein they shall abide forever. Those that have embraced the Faith, and those that have fled their land and fought for the cause of God, may hope for God’s mercy” (2:217–18)
  • “Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people. They will spare no pains to corrupt you. They desire nothing but your ruin. Their hatred is evident from what they utter with their mouths, but greater is the hatred which their breasts conceal” (3:118)

Yes, I know the standard response to this argument – it's that most Muslims are of sound mind and of good character and will not take these parts of the Qur'an literally, and I would agree with that. But it absolutely stands to reason that there are large groups of radicals, as there are with any form of organisation or religion, that WILL take these passages literally and dedicate their lives to enforcing these ancient words, and I feel that we don't place enough responsibility on the reasonable Muslims in this country to ferret out these extremists from within their organisations and more actively discourage this kind of extremist thinking from developing.

Left-wing media will often respond with the predictable cry of, 'But this is what the terrorists want you to do! They want you to act outraged, they are trying to provoke a furious reaction!' They may have a point, but equally, when does it cease becoming astute and composed, and become sheer cowardice and even downright negligence to downplay such events happening in our own country and pretend we can just go on with our lives as normal?

Say what you will about the British and American militaries and their rightful or wrongful intervention in other country's affairs, all at the command of unaccountable politicians and governments, of course, but when a British soldier is beheaded on the streets of his own capital city, in front of his own people, and we aren't allowed to be outraged, then I have a question – what exactly are we allowed to be outraged at?

Is it when a sufficiently large terrorist attack occurs in our cities or neighbourhoods? Is there a minimum death toll at which point we are allowed to genuinely question the state of immigration in the country and the factors that allow terrorists to be born, raised, protected and provided for by the state so they can form extremist factions and learn how to kill and maim British citizens? When are we allowed to begin to question a society in which people like Michael Adebolajo, who was born and raised in Britain, and benefited from all of its freedoms that have been established by hundreds of years of hard work and sacrifice on the part of British people, can become a terrorist, and trained in a school of thought that actively encourages killing of innocent people, merely for being non-believers?

It seems to me that our overzealous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent drawn-out and tragic wars have created a sort of national guilt, in which it is almost impossible to feel like any sort of reaction is allowed to acts of terror on our lands. But to claim that the West is fully responsible for all the chaos in the Middle East, Central Asia and other troubled Muslim nations is just as irresponsible and stupid as claiming that all Muslims are responsible for all the ills of the world. The reality is, the history of our world, our societies and why they have been shaped into what they are today is such a complicated and inconceivably complex tapestry that it is a futile and imbecilic gesture to attempt to reduce explanations to something as mundane as 'Oh, the Americans wanted the oil in the Middle East, they started all this, and we helped them, therefore we're bad.'

The fact is, what's done is done and cannot be undone now – no amount of guilt or false remorse is going to undo the fact that, yes, our people have mis-steped in the past and caused the wrongful deaths of many Muslims. Just as the reverse is true. Let's also not forget, much death and suffering in the Muslim world is caused by fellow Muslims at war with each other.

There is one thing, then, that Michael Adebolajo may have actually been correct in saying – 'Your government doesn't care about you'. If the government and media continues to brand anyone who dares speak out in outrage against horrific acts committed against our people as a mere racist or thug, and if they continue to fail to consider the growing Muslim population in the UK and lack of honesty and willingness to take responsibility among their communities for removing the extremist element within, then those words of his may very well prove to be correct.

Article by Don Gibson

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