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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

What we need to learn about Woolwich

British government officials claim it diminishes Lee Rigby's life to talk about why he was the target of a horrific attack. Eamonn McCann explains why the opposite is true.
A memorial to the victim killed in Woolwich 
A memorial to the victim killed in Woolwich
"THE ONLY reasons we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth...I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land, our women have to see the same...Tell your government to bring our troops back so you can all live in peace."
"Your" Government. "Our" troops. This was a man apparently doubtful about his British identity, and who made a distinction between the British people and their government.
A week on, the image of Michael Adebolajo, right hand dripping with blood, left hand gripping the meat cleaver he had used to hack Fusilier Lee Rigby to death, is etched into memories everywhere.
He hadn't fled the scene, but stood his ground, inviting passersby to film him, seemingly anxious to explain why he and Michael Adebowale had carried out the atrocity. Neither man made any threatening move toward Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, who, just as steadily as himself, had stood her ground no more than a yard in front of him.
Loyau-Kennett told the Daily Telegraph: "He was not high, he was not on drugs, he was not an alcoholic or drunk, he was just distressed, upset. He was in full control of his decisions and ready to do everything he wanted to do."
The butchery of Fusilier Rigby may have been horrible, sickening, unjustifiable. But it wasn't irrational: Adebolajo and Adebowale had been making a political point.
Virtually every mainstream commentator shrinks from this perspective. Many seem angered that any explanation is offered other than the psychopathology of the perpetrators and the presumed evil of their ideology.
Alternatively, it's argued that even if the killers' motivation had a rational element, this is not the time to discuss it. Not the time to ask what truth there might be in the claim that "in our land, our women have to see the same." The wrong circumstances in which to mention torture and murder by Western troops in Iraq, or the killing by drones of Afghan or Pakistani villagers standing too close to a supposed fighter selected for death by Barack Obama.
It dishonors the memory of Fusilier Rigby, it's implied, to argue that there was more to his death than an ambush by homicidal cutthroats.
This is the direct opposite of the truth. We diminish the life of Fusilier Rigby and belittle the grief of those left behind if we refuse to identify the reasons he was done to death. The reasons include the fact that "Muslims are dying every day" at the hands of Western forces.
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MEDIA ATTENTION over the past week has understandably focused on the distraught incomprehension of the family and friends of Fusilier Rigby. We rarely encounter equivalent coverage of the agony of the families of Muslim victims of the West. If we did, we might be as moved by their suffering as we are by the suffering of the bereaved of Woolwich. Politically, that would never do.
Western governments seem implacably determined to learn no lessons when it comes to relations with Muslims. June 4 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Emily Davison under the hooves of the king's horse during the Derby. Like scores of other campaigners for votes for women, she had been force-fed while in prison--for throwing a stone at Lloyd George wrapped in paper, bearing the words, "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God."
Read the accounts of the suffragettes' experience alongside accounts of the force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantánamo Bay. Word for word, they could be swapped. A majority of the Guantánamo Bay prisoners have been declared innocent of any crime. But there's hardly a hullabaloo about their detention without trial, much less about the torture being inflicted on them.
Their religion is a factor in this. If dozens of white Christians were being treated so anywhere in the world, there would be uproar at the UN, with Western delegations raising the roof.
Within days of the Woolwich killing, Britain and France were calling for more arms to be poured into Syria. In response, Vladimir Putin--whose repression of Chechnya has easily matched the savagery of the West toward other Muslim lands--pledged to supply the other side with advanced missile systems.
Yet again, Muslim lives are regarded as worthless in the power plays of outside states. And, still, lengthy discussions of the implications of the Woolwich atrocity focus mainly on the question of what's to be done about...Muslim extremists.
It is doing the likes of Theresa May an unwarranted favor to allow that the law-and-order response of the Home Office might be based on mere ignorance and stupidity.
First published in the Belfast Telegraph.


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