Backlash of tragedy after Lee Ridgy’s brutal killing

228300824THE killing of Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich in May was a dismal and brutal event which shocked us all, regardless of our race or religion. It was undeniably an attack on the freedom and tolerance which Britain holds so dearly, and especially in London, where there are many examples of different communities living side by side peacefully.

Events like this, which are designed to wreck community cohesion, should never be allowed to diminish our resolve to continue our way of life; however our first thoughts are undoubtedly with Lee Rigby’s family for whom the nightmare continues, particularly as the trial of the two suspects starts.

As a Londoner, I was also concerned about the aftermath and the possibility of copycat incidents. Thankfully, there have been none; there has also been the issue of backlash attacks against Muslim communities. So, in June, I asked the Mayor of London to tell me whether there had been an increase in the number of Islamaphopbic incidents in London since Woolwich and if so, what form these attacks had taken?

It took the Mayor’s office about three months to respond, but eventually in September, the response came as follows: “Immediately after Lee Rigby’s murder, reports to the MPS of Islamaphobic Hate Crime rose. From 22nd to the end of May, the average daily total was approx nine per day.

In June the rate reduced to an average of just under four per day. In July (up to the 25th) the rate reduced still further to average fewer than two per day, and the trend continues downward. 77 per cent of these offences have been Violence against the Person, and three quarters of those have been Harassment. 21 per cent has been Criminal Damage”

This belated response by the Mayor was perhaps indicative of something more sinister; a failure to acknowledge the problem soon enough following the incident in May, maybe? (Although unlikely, given that the Metropolitan Police acknowledged the rise in backlash attacks in the summer) or perhaps a sign of discord on the subject between the Mayor and his advisors?

In June, Andrew Gilligan (mayoy Boris Johnson’s cycling commissioner) wrote extensively in the Daily Telegraph about the “overhyping” of backlash incidents, proclaiming that “having asked other police forces and trawling local media reports, The Daily Telegraph has been unable to find a single confirmed case since Drummer Rigby’s death where any individual Muslim has received an injury requiring medical treatment”.

There is clearly much more than a hint of scepticism around the Mayor, but with the latest figures quoted by the Mayor, such sceptics have probably been laid to rest.

The statistical element of the response is also a point of note. The numerical trend is expected; an immediate rise in incidents with (thankfully) a steady decline, but what is worrying is the large proportion of incidents of violence against the person.

What we tend to hear about in the media are threats against the symbolism of the Islamic faith, such as mosques and Islamic community centres, but clearly, threats against the person are more likely and more indicative of a vicious strand of personal attacks against the Muslim community.

The upshot of this will be for example, Muslim men and women having to watch their back when out and about in their local neighbourhood, Muslim children going to school scared; Muslims denying their faith or keeping a low profile and collectively a whole community feeling under siege.

We must continue to counter this trend by spreading the message of tolerance and furthermore, the message that acts like the one in Woolwich are not synonymous with the Islamic faith but simply and purely acts of mindless terrorism; they do not and will never belong under the banner of any religion or faith.

However, backlash attacks against Muslims are the thin edge of the wedge because what we are now seeing are personal attacks against anyone who even looks Muslim.

Recently, a swathe of derogatory twitter remarks followed the crowing of Miss America, an Asian.

Even though Ms Nina Davuluri is of Indian origin, her brown skin rendered her synonymous with being an Arab, a Muslim and ultimately a terrorist!

We should always remain mindful of these trends which breed ignorance and intolerance because as the Ms America incident shows, the tendency is for it to mushroom into an attack against a much wider group and as Miss America found out, even beauty is no guard against bigotry!

Finally this has been published in Eastern Eye.

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