Before starting I want to make clear I am not making these criticisms to attack but for a purpose – so we can develop, understand and tackle the problem of Islamophobia and extremism in the most productive way possible.
On the day of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, spectators on social networks claimed the media were lying, that the culprit wasn’t shouting “Allahu akbar” as no witnesses heard it and also claimed media were wrong in their reports that he is Muslim.
It’s safe to say that conspiracy was quickly shut down once video footage of the attacker himself defining as Muslim was released. I witnessed one tweet implying conspiracy that ITV were at the incident before police. ITV weren’t there before the police. ITV clearly stated that the footage was captured by a bus passenger yet somehow tweet was retweeted 27 times. Anyone who watched the footage properly would know it’s completely baseless and retweeting it serves no purpose. Once a conspiracy falls flat, so does the person’s credibility – making it harder for them to challenge Islamophobia unless they openly accept their mistake.
We should all keep an open mind but shouting accusations as though we’re experts is foolish when in reality know nothing for certain. It seems people get an ego boost in thinking they know everything. Why can’t we just speculate -after all, we are just spectators.
Should Muslims of Britain apologize over what happened in Woolwich? No. Should the Muslim community stand up against the extremism that was displayed. Yes. We all should. And there is a distinct difference between apologising for extremism and opposing it. Making a point that it is not necessary for Muslims to condemn is stubborn and not a priority when the Muslim community under fire. In just a few days there were over 150 attacks and unless a stand is taken, they will continue. We should ALL be expressing our condemnation of hate but the Muslim community will have the strongest voice in taking a stand.
The English Defence League (EDL) are angry about Woolwich and blame Islam even though Muslims have made quite clear that such actions cannot be justified within Islam. Throughout the week they’ve held demonstrations.
To hold counter EDL demonstrations is important to show that communities are standing together and build confidence in those who fear Islamophobic attacks. But simply opposing in this way has a limited impact if the EDL cannot engage themselves.
This is why York mosque inviting the EDL for tea was a brilliant way of creating a much-needed open dialogue. One of the core reasons members in the EDL blame Islam for the attacks is because they have not had interaction with Muslims before and they do not understand Islam. They have only been exposed to what is projected in the news (often negative representation since negativity is a news value).
We are all human beings, and we all have the ability to connect to one another through speaking the language of humanity. With an open dialogue we can learn many things from one another which we cannot learn if we are constantly against one another engaging in keyboard battles or having protests on each side of a town.
I’m not saying we have to become best friends with EDL members. But it takes a much stronger person to show gentleness to someone striking out than it does to strike that person back. Resilience, strength and kindness is the key to combating hatred.
Mocking the EDL isn’t going to change their views any time soon. Intolerance on intolerance will never amount to co-existence. And hate on hate will never amount to love.