The reported killing of soldier Lee Rigby has sent shockwaves throughout Britain for the past week. Since then, the images of Michael Adebolajo & Micheal Adebowale have been plastered all over our TV screens and newspapers as the prime suspects.
While much confusion initially surrounded the details of the incident, the reportage immediately centred on one common theme – TERRORISM. Media attention focused almost exclusively on Adebolajo who featured in “The Woolwich Terrorist” video, circulated within a matter of hours following the incident. Soon after Prime-Minster David Cameron declared that the incident “strongly appears to have been a terrorist attack”.
While the image of an unrepentant killer with blood-drenched hands is no doubt shocking, this video revealed some inconsistencies in the early reports. Firstly the attackers were said to have been “Of Muslim appearance” and shouting “Allah Hu Akbar” before “beheading” a British Soldier. Adebolajo’s appearance in the video is not distinctly Muslim and the controlled manner with which he spoke, contradicted the projected characterisation of a deranged, machete-wielding madman.
Standing in front of a camera, apparently held by a random passerby, he stated: “I apologise that women and children had to witness this today, but in our lands, our women have to witness the same”. His composure as well as the content of the statement was enough for me to reserve judgment until gaining more clarity. This appeared to be an unpopular position.
Attempting to go beyond this depiction, I had the opportunity to speak with a friend of Adebolajo, who describes him as “A shy, sincere man of impeccable character. I knew him as Mujahib. He is kind and very giving. If someone was sick or they needed money, whatever he had, he would give”. The friend, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous, confirms his passion for his faith. “He wanted for Muslims to be free to practice Islam. He would have ideally liked to live in a Muslim country and practice Islam freely”. Adebolajo’s statement in the infamous video, express his thoughts on what he considers the injustices suffered in Muslim nations at the hands of British soldiers, which he considered “a war on Islam”.
Assessing the grounds for believing that there is a “war on Islam” is not a matter of whether or not you agree with Adebolajo’s alleged actions. Neither is it about your ability to honour and mourn the loss of a life in such circumstances. Rather it is about whether there is a just cause for the actions of Britain’s armed forces to be examined and where life is in the balance, there can never be a wrong time to ask such a question.
Amidst the rounded condemnation of the act, any allusion to the fact that there was truth in what Adebolajo said was interpreted as the attempted justification of unspeakable brutality. Queries concerning the incident and the apparent calmness of all surrounding the scene were swiftly rejected as “conspiracy theories”. One probing question, however, did begin to rise above the chorus; “Why is this act being called terrorism”?
Though there is no universally accepted definition of “terrorism”, it is generally understood that the term applies to violence, particularly against a civilian population, in pursuit of a political agenda. Whatever the definition, glaring contradictions are evident in the way it is applied.
As Channel 4 news documents the rise of the “extreme right-wing” across Britain and Europe this week, racist attacks across the region are simply called “hate crimes”. Only a few weeks ago, Mohammed Saleem was viciously stabbed to death on the streets of Birmingham. The West Midlands Police reported that the incident “may be racially motivated” – not terrorist. Attacks on mosques following the Woolwich incident were not considered acts of terrorism, but “retaliation”.
It appears that “racially motivated attacks” are not considered a political agenda associated with a group of people. Rather, the public are encouraged to view them as random acts of singular individuals, even when connected to an organised body, with a distinct ideology (e.g. EDL).
The contradiction is even more glaring when it is considered that unarmed civilians killed in foreign nations as a result of British Army intrigued are considered “collateral damage”. A soldier, killed by civilians on British soil is considered “terrorism”. The application of the term “Terrorism” therefore, does not lie in whether one uses violence for political purposes, but rather what political purpose one is serving in the use of violence.
Many in the Black community have hung their heads in shame since shared heritage with the “horrific murderers” became apparent.
While Olympic Athletes Mohammed Farrah and Christine Ohuruogu are celebrated as “British”, London born Adebolajo & Adebowale are consistently referred to as “of Nigerian descent”. This mass media guilt trip seems to have prompted a group of Nigerians to conduct a “peace march” in honour of Mr. Rigby, who since being identified, has gone from being described as a soldier, to being described as “Drummer Rigby”.
Focusing on the Fusilier’s musical ability, the reportage seldom refers to his service as a “Machine-Gunner” in Afghanistan; one of the countries to which Adebolajo refers, when he states: “Muslims are dying daily at the hands of British Soldiers and this British Soldier is one”.
Despite the expressed intention of the suspects, reporters and politicians have attempted to completely disassociate the brutal murder from the many wars currently involving the British armed forces around the world. For example on a recent Question Time (23/05/13), an audience member asked whether Britain’s aggressive Foreign Policy makes radicalisation of its enemies inevitable. The response was – “There is no justification for this horrific act”.
This evidently popular opinion raises a very important question. Is it being implied by omission, that British soldiers do not commit horrific acts or that the horrific acts of British soldiers around the world are indeed justifiable?
A frightening prospect when President Obama is attempting to install America’s African Military High Command (Africom) on the Afrikan continent, the rise of radical Islam in Afrika being a primary pretext. Nigeria and Kenya, where Adebolayo was reportedly arrested and tortured, are considered hotbeds for “terrorist activity”. The British-American alliance makes young Afrikans in Britain a likely object of British Intelligence (MI5 & MI6) interest. The current image of Michael Adebolajo is fast becoming the justification for such intrigue, much like the “yardie” stereotype that a generation of Black men have had to endure.
History is filled with examples of tragic events being used to sanction an ulterior agenda. In a time when DNA profiling, Stop & Search and imprisonment (all of which disproportionately affect the Black community) are on the rise, being aware of the implications of the current climate are more important than ever. And if the recent examples of Malcolm Shabbazz & Assata Shakur are anything to go by, these events provide a serious warning for what is to come.