Lee Rigby murder: Why do some Muslims choose politics and others violence?

And why is this a question we never ask ourselves?

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The two sisters who worked for Nigella Lawson were found not guilty of fraud  just after the convictions of Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, the two brutal murderers of Lee Rigby. Swiftly, shamefully, the fickle nation was gripped by the final act of the Lawson/Saatchi melodrama and it was as if Rigby was forgotten. Not, obviously, by his grieving relatives who, in court, had watched the gruesome footage of the soldier being butchered and who heard one of the killers justifying his barbarism. And not forgotten by most of us Muslims who feel collective guilt about what happened and seek ways to make amends. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in Leicester had a charity dinner in October to raise money for an education trust for Jack, the young son of Rigby. His widow attended the dinner. This week, mosques have prayed for the young man as have Muslim families. I prayed too.

With passions running high, some of us have experienced both unspoken and viciously spoken hatred. Two emails asked if  I wanted to cut off the heads of all soldiers. (Me? I couldn’t cut the head off a very dead turkey.) This was after the catastrophic interview by John Humphrys on BBC Radio4’s Today programme with Anjem Choudary. Has the BBC a death wish for itself and the rest of us too? Once again it handed air time to an extremist, bellicose Muslim, shunned and despised by British Muslims, including the most conservative. Choudary is an ideological jihadist who uses words like sharp blades. He nicked Humphrys here, cut him there, shredded tough questions with counter-questions, left our nation’s scariest interrogator wounded. How thoughtless and brainless do you have to be to make such a choice the day after Rigby’s killers were sentenced?

The programme has form on this. When columnist Rod Liddle was the editor of Today, he amused himself by frequently featuring Abu Hamza, a latter-day malevolent Captain Hook but with worse breath. (By the way I think Hamza should have been tried here, not sent off to the US to face unspecified charges.) Our national broadcasters are not noble exemplars of Voltaire’s dictum: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I‘ll defend to the death your right to say it.” They are motivated by mischief. As Labour MP John Spellar said when condemning the interview: “It makes good radio.” Makes great TV too. Bring on the mad mullahs, bearded brigands, reformed terrorists, and watch the ratings shoot up. None of this whipped-up excitement helps anyone understand what Islamicism is and why it is spreading among young black and Asian males and possibly white converts. 

These angry, chaotic men are nomads, psychologically disjointed, rebels looking for a cause. Charismatic proselytisers get to parts unreachable by parents, educators, lovers or friends. I am not making excuses for them, but it is important to try and go beyond the usual and useless rhetoric of “extremism”. Banning imams and extremist sites will not stop the destructive rush or maddening roar in the heads of men like Adebowale and Adebolajo. Since 9/11 there has been no attempt by the US or UK (as far as I know) to explore the mental and emotional wellsprings of terrorism. Why do some Muslims fall into violence while others opt for a life in politics, or doing good? No research is carried out to discover the reasons for the disparities, or explore the personality profiles of those who fall into Islamicism.

The effect of Western foreign policies, too, needs to be objectively investigated. Politicians who brush this aside are being criminally negligent. Bad, unjust policies and wars can make the sanest of us lose hope in the democratic system. Two days ago the Gibson report confirmed that our secret services were complicit in the torture of Muslims and co-operated with the US on rendition. This was under New Labour. Then on Friday, High Court judge Mr Justice Simon ruled, “with hesitation”, that Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj could not pursue a valid claim of torture because, he said, it would damage US/UK relations. My insides turn to molten lava when such information surfaces or is pulled out of the secret state. Think then how it could affect impressionable, hot-headed, rootless men.

And finally, we need reliable facts on how Wahhabism – Dark-Age Islam, funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States – has infiltrated Britain, especially in educational and religious institutions. Imagine China trying to disseminate Maoism in the UK, in a veiled, but planned and systemic way. There would, quite rightly, be an uproar. But because of oil dependency, Saudi Arabia et al are free to do just that and are protected by our cowardly state.

Unless there is a serious, concerted  effort to tackle these three evils, there will for sure be more savagery. Politicians and the media still don’t get it and don’t want to.

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