The heinous crime that took place in the London suburb of Woolwich in broad daylight last week cannot be justified or excused, and most certainly Islam and Muslims should not be held responsible for it.
The ugly sight of a young British soldier’s body on the side of a main road, with two men of British African origin near it, proud of what they had done, and asking passers-by to film them while one of them was brandishing a meat cleaver and a knife, both soaked in blood, is a sight of pure madness.
A crime of this sort does not carry a political meaning and is not a rebellion against injustice, but whatever the perpetrators of this crime had in their minds, what was perpetrated was in contradiction of Islam, tolerance and coexistence. Prime Minister David Cameron, in his first statement about the crime, was very quick to say this was a “betrayal of Islam and Muslims.” He was absolutely right.
It was actually a stab in the heart for civil coexistence in a country that has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all over the world and treated them like full citizens throughout successive governments, whether Right or Left. They have enjoyed the same rights and duties enjoyed by their peers whose origins in the British Isles date back centuries.
Britain also opened the doors of both houses of its parliament to Muslims, and government departments too, and opened the way for them to prosper by their participation in economic activities, making hundreds of them very rich, not to mention deservedly occupying top positions in civil service, culture and major educational institutions.
Going back to the heinous crime, there was a minor reaction from certain racist groups, which was to be expected, and a small number of attacks did take place, but the general public opinion in Britain dealt with the crime and its motives in a reasonable, responsible and civil manner, exactly like it dealt with the 7 July 2005 public transport bombings in London.
The reasonable British citizen recognized long ago that these actions were distant from Islam’s teachings and spirit, and that their perpetrators were misled and unaware that it was not in the interest of Islam and Muslims to hijack the legitimacy of Islam and threaten Muslims’ interests by implicating them in a survival clash of civilizations without consulting them or acquiring their permission.
Even if there was a grievance of some sort, resorting to blind violence in the wrong place and at the wrong time increases misunderstandings, frustrates reconciliation efforts, instills doubt, creates animosities, and harms education and employment opportunities for the coming generations of young Muslims. These are the last things Muslim minorities in the West want.
However, looking closer to home, is irrational violence a problem in the Muslim world itself? We have countless pieces of evidence showing the endless failure of those who build their beliefs and practices on murder, blood and terrorism, while Muslim countries who build their beliefs and political practices on understanding, accepting the other view, partnership in development, and investing in people have achieved good levels of growth and prosperity.
What happened in London last week has nothing to do with Islam, and this a clear and direct message which should be made clear to the world, in word and in deed.