The brutal slaughter of British soldier Lee Rigby in London was not only shocking, it was also a horrible reminder of recent history, when there was controversy surrounding the integration of Muslims in European and Western societies and when extremist slogans and speeches within that environment appeared.
One has to admit that not much has changed in the last few years.
A mere 48 hours after the crime, a total of 150 hate-crimes were recorded. Observers said crimes linked to Islamophobia had multiplied ten-fold, while police were drowned in complaints about racist comments on social media, and graffiti carrying anti-Islamic slogans.
It could be portrayed as a chaos that resembles what Arab Spring societies are going through in trying to identify the state and themselves as Islamic. This may have had an effect on Muslims societies in the West.
British press have started raising questions about both the British jihadists who died in the fighting in Syria and those who are still involved in the fight. A number of articles have questioned the ideology those returning from Syria might bring to Britain, in an attempt to compare it to the situation experienced by some societies upon the return of mujahideen from Afghanistan over three decades ago.
We must note the extent of Europe’s occupation with this discussion. It is an important and vital discussion, even if it includes racial overtones, such as the tweet by the leader of the British National Party in which he called for wrapping the soldier’s killers in pig’s skin and shooting them dead; a statement that sparked both anger and concern.
To say that Britain has entered a war against Islam following the murder of Lee Rigby does not reflect the truth. Amid the anger against Muslims, there are many discussions in media outlets and on social networks about how such a murder occurred and on how to contain its implications.
For example, there is a large campaign in British universities to prevent extremism and to explain to students what they can do to curb hatred. These campaigns are part of an extended discussion on strategies for fighting extremism and the extent of its success. It is an issue aimed at Muslims themselves and at the rhetoric of large groups among them.
Those who observed the discussions and debates in Britain following the London murder feel that this is a living society, and that the crises it faces force it into evaluating its values.
It seems that the media is the main arena for these discussions. The London murder has caused our values as Muslims to be monitored and questioned by others, but not by us. This raises questions about our position on these discussions, or even the internal discussions that we never held because of our relations with others or our relations with our collective community. We must also discuss the role of our media in launching discussions similar to those launched by Western media.