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Opinion: A betrayal of Islam | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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British police activity close to the scene where a man was murdered in John Wilson Street, Woolwich, south-east London, England, 22 May 2013. (EPA)

British Prime Minister David Cameron was right to describe the brutal murder of a British soldier committed by a radical Muslim of African descent as a “betrayal of Islam.”

One of the perpetrators of London’s so-called “machete attack” appeared in a video clip—subsequently replayed on television—with a bloodied meat cleaver in hand, threatening more violence on the pretext that “Muslims are murdered every day.”

Shockingly, the Nigerian murderer apologized in gentlemanly manner to the women witnessing the crime, saying that women in his country also witness such crimes.

Personally, I am not quite certain if Britons commit such murders in Nigeria.

A report on Al-Arabiya channel claimed that the British-born youth had recently converted to Islam from Christianity, and, together with his accomplice who was wounded by the police, had no prior criminal record.

There can be no doubt that this attack was shocking and dangerous. In fact, the gravity of the incident derives from its sudden and unexpected nature. Even if it were legal, it is practically impossible to deploy sufficient security personnel to arrest all suspicious pedestrians. It is also impossible to be suspicious of all Muslims or Muslim Africans.

In this case, what can be done?

Besides taking legal measures, the personalities of the murderers—who are lucky to be alive—should be analyzed in an effort to find the underlying motives for the crime.

Obviously, the murderer wanted to send a message to the west, represented by Britain. The video taken by one of the by-standers, which encapsulates the essence of the murderer’s message, is a valuable source of insight about how terrorists are radicalized in the West.

We should not forget the two Chechen brothers who are responsible for the Boston Bombings, particularly given that the younger brother is still alive and thus provides a valuable source of information regarding this issue.

Personally speaking, I believe that the media continuously broadcasting news on international crises as well as stories of violence and destruction is just one of the reasons why such youth turn to terrorism. In a sense, the media serves as a valuable means to recruit and radicalize youths like the perpetrators of the London murder.

Yes, there is bloodshed and wars and history is rife with examples. Things have always been this way since the ambitious and greedy creature we call man came into existence. However, what is new is the media’s eagerness to cover the horror of war in detail. Accordingly, it has become easy to recruit people like this naïve youth. Would history have remained the same had CNN, Sky News, YouTube, or Twitter existed at the time of Napoleon or (second Abbasid caliph) Abu Ja’far Al-Mansur?

What is important is Cameron’s announcement that Muslims should not be held accountable for a crime committed by this villain.

This is something important and reasonable as well as more consistent with reality. What is more important, however, is the fact that the problem of religious terrorism is partially caused by a larger one—namely, the international community’s growing inability to take action toward global crises, such as the Syrian crisis.

Paradoxically, refraining from taking action towards such crises is supposedly meant to weaken Al-Qaeda-linked groups while in reality this is only serving to breed more terrorists ready to be recruited.

Religious terrorism does not just concern Muslims. Rather, it is as universal as global warming or the economic crisis: people from all cultures suffer from it. Other youth, no different from the Nigerian who committed the London murder, are now slaughtering and kidnapping Muslims in Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Sinai, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.