The Woolwich murder - not a 'Muslim problem'
The murder in Woolwich has shocked everyone. No one was prepared for such a killing on the streets of the UK. The response has been of disgust and condemnation. This incident has raised some questions that politicians and the mainstream media have conveniently dodged. I am disgusted and appalled by what has taken place, but why should I have to condemn or apologise for such a crime? It had nothing to do with me.
Why is it that Muslims and Muslim organisations are expected to condemn and distance themselves from the actions of two individuals? Why is it that Muslim organisations do not even need to be prompted to condemn? They are readily condemning actions that have nothing to do with them. There has been no attempt by Muslim organisations to discuss the causes of the attack, no attempt to question the mainstream media narrative that imposes labels on Muslims.
I was born and brought up in a majority Muslim area of Birmingham. I have travelled the country and the world. I have come across thousands of Muslims, spoken, debated and challenged opinions. Radicalisation is not a religious problem, it is a problem of society, and specifically, in this case, British society.
Scared into silence
Muslim leaders have been scared into silence. 'Prevent' officers visiting mosques and community leaders frighten them. They are told that if Muslims display any political opinions outside the mainstream then they are extremists, that if they do not inform on them, that their bank accounts can be frozen, mosques closed and they could face prison. Muslims are afraid. Muslim organisations and leaders are subservient to the state, scared to mention foreign policy as a radicalising factor just in case they are harangued for justifying the murder.
It has got to such a state that we do not even realise that our minds have been conditioned through years of media misrepresentation and widespread Islamophobia. Questioning the reason for a murder does not mean condoning or justifying it. Condemning something that has nothing to do with you feeds into the narrative that this is a 'Muslim problem' - that this is something that the Muslim community are responsible for, at least in part.
In turn so-called Muslim leaders stifled debate and discussion in mosques, too afraid to discuss anything political. For too long they have played a subservient role to the state, asking for a seat at the table and hoping for crumbs to be passed to them. I have not met a Muslim that has condoned the actions in Woolwich, but let’s not ignore what radicalises. British foreign policy radicalises, double standards radicalise, making Muslim youngsters feel like their opinions are not legitimate radicalises, stifling debate and discussion radicalises, not giving people a conduit to vent their opinions and frustrations radicalises, a lack of identity in Britain radicalises.
We are told that Muslims are equal citizens in this country but the reality is something very different. If we say we don’t drink we are labelled anti-social or not willing to integrate, if we drink we are labelled moderate; if a Muslim wears a hijab, she is oppressed, if she doesn’t she is liberated; if we express an opinion outside of the mainstream narrative, we are angry, if we join a mainstream political party we are passionate; if we sing the praises of the British establishment we are liberals, if we object to foreign policy we are extremists or Islamists.
Stop the subservience
I for one am fed up of this apologetic and subservient tone. I have nothing to apologise for. I should not be asked to condemn the actions of two men that had nothing to do with me just as a white man should not be asked to condemn the murders committed by Anders Brevik or for the violent actions of the English Defence League.
Have Muslims not proved their worth to this country? Muslims have bled for this country during the world wars, they have fought for Empire, they have served as colonial subjects, they have waved the flags, sang the anthems and anglicised their names – Mo and Ed. But still we are not accepted; we still hear ‘Muslim appearance’ in the mainstream media, which basically means non-white, not one of us.
I am privileged, I went to university, I had an abundance of left-wing white friends that never questioned my opinions because of my religion or ethnicity, that accepted me as an equal, and made me feel that I had a place in society, we shared our politics as well as our battles.
My parents still fear that I will be arrested for writing and expressing an opinion as a journalist. I have been inundated with calls since the attack from Muslims that are afraid of a backlash - one even asked me if there would be ethnic cleansing. I told them not to be afraid because I had faith in the British people to see through the fog that politicians and mainstream media perpetuate.
Why is it that Joe Glenton can say that foreign policy is a radicalising factor but our so-called Muslim leaders tiptoe around the issue? Why is it that George Eaton can say that Muslims should not have to distance themselves from the attacks, but our so-called leaders are falling over themselves to do it? Why is it that Glenn Greenwald can question whether the attack is terrorism, but my fellow brothers and sisters are afraid to do the same?
I was born here, I am British, I am standing in the tradition that says that my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s, that I have a right to object to the hypocritical treatment vented out to Muslims without being accused of condoning or justifying such attacks. There are Muslims that will disagree with me - that is fine, we must understand that we are not a homogenous group. Anjem Choudary and his motley crew do not represent me, and neither do the Muslim Council of Britain with their 400 affiliated mosques run by old men in committees. Unfortunately non-Muslims in the public sphere represent my views more than our so-called Muslim leaders.
To be ‘leaders’, senior Muslim figures must lead. Whilst politicians and the media carry on scapegoating Muslims, a true community leadership must face up to the reality of foreign policy and suppression of Muslim communities over the last decade, and call it out for what it is.
This piece first appeared on assedbaig.com.