Shocking news out of Woolwich, south London, as horrified observers witness the death of a young man at the hands of two machete-wielding psychopaths. Little is known so far other than that the victim appeared to have been wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt, and his assailants were of Middle-Eastern or African descent. Reports of them crying “Allahu Akbar” as they perpetrated the vicious deed are spreading, in an indication that they were of the Muslim faith. A starkly morbid and tragic event with potentially far reaching consequences.
The Twittersphere and comment sections of prominent online news organisation already indicate a certain degree of knee jerk anti-Muslim sentiment, even before the murderers’ reported cries of religiosity were widely known. Angst is being vented out in some quantity over the worst aspects of the recent history of the British Muslim community, with attention being drawn to the Rochdale and Oxford paedophile rings, extremist preachers like Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, and of course the July 7th 2005 London bombings.
With UKIP experiencing a boom in popularity in the UK, unsurprisingly against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and faltering living standards, there is a concerning development of legitimising fundamentally xenophobic positions. Members of this right wing fringe movement have already been called out for possessing inexcusably prejudiced views for the politics of a proudly progressive nation. This case in Woolwich is, beyond its sadness and brutality, an extraordinarily inconveniently timed thing.
It is more distorted fuel on the fires of those who think that the UK would be better off were we to enact draconian immigration measures in the form that parties like UKIP propose. Restrictions to permanent residence visas, freezes on immigration, stringent work permit systems and a rigorous and gun-ho deportation strategy are what’s on offer. This may appeal to some, but mostly those I would argue that think immigrants are in any way at the heart of the nation’s problems. A truly lamentable position, and one cynically capitalised upon by UKIP.
An event like the Woolwich murder is precisely the time to reaffirm the positive moral and egalitarian values that are the heart of a nation like the United Kingdom. This was a crime by two sick individuals and speaks not one jot to the contribution of the broader Muslim community in this country. Just like the crimes of the IRA represent the violent political attitudes of a minority and not all Irish people. Just like the crimes of Dale Clegan, Mark Bridger and Jimmy Saville speak to their illnesses and not all white Brits.
The United Kingdom is a better nation than to engage in a stint of antagonistic behaviour towards minorities who, for the almost complete majority, just want to live in a peaceful and democratic place where no one is persecuted for their private beliefs or way of life. Or so we hope. That is a picture I so greatly prefer to anything UKIP want for the country. Although I’m guilty of politicizing this event, and thoughts do genuinely go out to the family of the young victim, it’d be a greater tragedy still for this to be manipulated by the far-right wing agenda.