The brutal slaying of Private Lee Rigby in Woolwich was particularly abhorrent. The inhumane slaughter is more akin to a war atrocity than anything on the streets of London.
Suffice to say, the murder was used as a trigger for an unprecedented series of attacks on the Muslim community in Britain and more obnoxious comments by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, that deserve to be condemned if not prosecuted as inciting violence. The former Prime Minister, who is already wanted for alleged war crimes on Iraq, did more than enough damage during his 10-year tenure. His latest outburst, however pernicious, was seen as nothing more than another attempt to justify his self-righteousness and absolve himself from any responsibility of the consequences of his interventionist wars.
His call was for more wars against Muslims, warning about both their religion and their population growth, that their extremists were much more significant and numerous than the “few” Christian, Hindu and Buddhist extremists and that everyone must openly agree with him. The problem was not the West’s wrong-headed policies but was “within Islam,” Blair argued in an article for the Mail on Sunday. It was “from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it,” he said.
The broad significance of Rigby’s murder, according to Blair, was not as “the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam,” but “that the ideology which inspired it is profound and dangerous.” The warning was that the “seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown.” And although the West “has helped sow seeds of reconciliation and peace, clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful.”
In his article, the former premier went as far as citing problems in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, Mali, Pakistan, Yemen, Burma, Bangladesh, Palestine and the Philippines. “We are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing,” he said. Blair also referred to the young and rapidly growing population in Muslim countries. “Not every engagement need be military; or where military, involve troops. But disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace,” Blair insisted.
Former Conservative Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was among those who suggested the former Labour leader was “still trying to justify the Iraq War.” Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, who has been a long-term outspoken opponent of the Afghanistan war, said that he warned Blair in 2003 that Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq would increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks. “Attacking a Muslim state without achieving a fair settlement of the Palestine-Israeli situation is an affront to Muslims, from our local mosques to the far-flung corners of the world,” Flynn said. Speaking in Parliament he said he felt nauseated that the former premier was now trying to blame Rigby’s murder on the inherent nature of Islam, but “it was not, that event was a reaction to what happened in 2003.”
Blair was also accused of following the anti Islam, anti Muslim EDL’s agenda but his office tried to distance the former Prime Minister in a spate of tweets with the extreme right-wing party’s Leader Tommy Robinson.
It is a highly dangerous narrative reminiscent of the medieval crusades that Blair and other politicians have descended down to detract from the ever deepening quagmire of the failed “war on terror”. The narrative is no longer hidden as targeting Islam but is clear and in the open. Innocent Muslims in the UK now suffer Islamophobic abuses and attacks and there has been since then a huge increase in attacks against the ‘visible form of Islam’, that is, mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim women wearing the hijab and niqab.
The UK has an unhappy history of religious intolerance, most famously with the hostility towards Catholics since the Reformation. The danger is that anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiments are being institutionalised, with the police being filmed allowing the EDL to openly chant threats to burn mosques during a rally in Sheffield.
The letters ‘EDL’ were found sprayed on the side of Somali Bravanese Welfare Association Islamic centre in London, which was used as a community centre mainly by children after school, after it was burnt down in early June.
Farooq Murad of the Muslim Council of Britain has called for “serious action” to be taken against such crimes. Labour MP Rushanara Ali urged Prime Minister, David Cameron, to take action against all violent extremist groups, including English Defence League (EDL).
“We should not allow the murder of Lee Rigby to come between Londoners,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said. Neither should provocative and malicious comments be allowed. The law should be equal for all, including former prime ministers as well as right-wing groups, just like Muslims are arrested for inciting hatred.
However, the police have not done much to protect the Muslim communities, mosques and Islamic centres as the number of attacks continues since the Woolwich murder.
Lessons need to be learnt about interventionist wars. Time is overdue to unwind the so-called war on terrorism and develop policies based on reconciliation rather than blunt military might. No more crusades please, Mr Blair.