By Farrukh Dhondy
Jun 01, 2013
One of the killers replied that they had taken their revenge on a soldier because Britain’s foreign policy was killing Muslims in Afghanistan
“Don’t waste your life
Looking for your Self.
Selves are so easy to make up.”
From Namak Haram by Bachchoo
Last week in a populated street in Southeast London, a 23-year-old soldier named Lee Rigby was literally hacked to death by two men in broad daylight. Rigby was not in uniform. He was wearing a T-shirt that was printed with the phrase, “HELP FOR HEROES”, an advertisement for a charity that supports British soldiers who have been maimed in action and the families of those who are dead.
The men drove a car at him, knocked him down, emerged from the car with meat cleavers and a pistol and dragged him, struggling, to the middle of the road where, before bystanders, they stabbed and hacked him to death. They shouted “Allah Hu Akbar” as they did it.
The killers didn’t run away. They left the body in the throes of death in the middle of the road and stood with bloodied hands, bloodied clothes, blood-stained knives and the blood-stained meat cleaver on the pavement threatening passers-by to stay away from the dying victim. A black woman and her daughter defied the threat and knelt by the body. Drummer Lee was breathing, but was beyond saving. The killers had attempted to sever his neck in a ritual beheading.
They very bizarrely asked the people around to photograph them on their mobile phones. One of the killers was approached by a woman and asked what they were doing. He replied that they should call the police and added that they had taken their revenge on a soldier because Britain’s foreign policy was killing Muslims in Afghanistan. One of the killers shouted out that he wanted to start a “war” in Britain and called, in very inarticulate terms, for the citizenry to rise up against the government.
Armed police arrived in a car and when the killers walked up to it toting the pistol and the machete, they were
shot, wounded and carried away, alive and under arrest, to hospital.
The news was immediately broadcast. The citizenry of Britain seemed disinclined to start a war, though a handful of members of a far-right organisation called the English Defence League did throw stones at mosques in London and in the Midlands. There was a universal sense of shock and show of grief more profound and uniform than that which followed the death of Princess Diana.
Muslim communities and their leaders dissociated themselves in the strongest terms from this barbaric slaughter and beheading on the street. Politicians and church leaders insisted that these people, though they professed to act in the name of all Muslims, had nothing to do with the broad Muslim community and that their ramblings were as far removed from Islam as the baying of hyenas are from the ethics of Aristotle — or words to that effect.
Both the perpetrators were British, of Nigerian descent, and were converts to violent Islamism. They were both christened Michael at birth but called themselves Muhammed. One of them had been arrested in Kenya in his attempt to reach Somalia and join a terrorist outfit called Al Shabaab.
In the wake of the atrocity eight other people have been arrested, presumably as part of the network which set up or instigated these two individuals.
The incident and arrests have led to frantic activity on the part of the government at all levels to address what is seen as a growing problem of home-bred extremism. It manifests itself in the person of preachers who interpret Islam in this political way and advocate “Jihadic” strategies which prompt their small congregations to enrol in terrorist training camps in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; suicide bombing, the amateur construction of explosives and, as the world has seen, bloody and shameful butchery. Their congregations exist in inner cities, in smaller towns where there are large immigrant populations and in universities throughout the country.
From all the profiles of the terrorists and would-be terrorists who have been apprehended, tried and jailed a pattern emerges. These individuals, at least for the period before their lapse into terrorist circles and activity, are isolated from the mainstream of British Muslim life, thought and worship.
What also emerges is that these individuals drop out of the normal activities of a community, even if that community is itself, as are so many of the British Muslim settlements, fairly isolated from mainstream life and its customs, mores and assumptions. Their alienation from Britain is rarely a purely intellectual disagreement or dissatisfaction with its foreign policy. (If that were the case, I would be one of them as I profoundly dissent from several tenets of this and the past government’s stances on very many fronts.) No, their alienation is personal and often cultural and sexual.
Take the young man from the enclosed and almost isolated communities of the ex-mill-and-now-mosque towns of Yorkshire or Lancashire. He attends a school which is almost 100 per cent immigrant and most probably 90 per cent Muslim, possibly all from a Mirpuri background. He is intelligent, good at studies and is encouraged by teachers to qualify for and go to university.
He does. He is suddenly out of his community and in an environment that is no longer familiar. He begins to feel culturally, intellectually, stylistically and sexually awkward and isolated. He gravitates towards those like himself who have for similar reasons formed a cabal, one that allows them to believe that they are part of a universal purpose. What’s more, they believe it’s a purpose ordained by God himself and that the Kafirs who don’t understand that deserve to be destroyed. Then comes the confident theology of paradise with its 72 virgins and, finally, the degradation of butchers’ cleavers to hack and behead strangers.
Someone should write a novel about it. I don’t read many Pakistani or Nigerian novels — so maybe they have.