In response to the attack, the English Defence League is planning protests in 30 locations across England, including most major cities, this afternoon, while the British National Party will be marching in Woolwich. Anti-fascist campaigners will stage counter-demonstrations
The reaction of Britain as a nation to the horrendous murder of Drummer Lee Rigby next to the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich on 22 May has by and large mirrored the brave attitude of those who stood up to the killers at the scene of the crime. Forty-eight-year-old Ingrid Loyau-Kennett engaged the men who committed the crime in conversation while a Caribbean lady knelt by the body of Drummer Rigby praying for him. When she was told by one of the killers that he wanted to start a war in London, Loyau-Kennett replied that he was only one against many.
Prime Minister David Cameron stated unequivocally that the incident “was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life; it was also a betrayal of Islam and the Muslim communities who give so much to our country”. Meanwhile loud denouncement of the attack came from Muslim communities and organisations, with the Muslim Council of Britain stating: “This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn it unreservedly. … Muslims have long served in this country’s Armed Forces, proudly and with honour. This attack on a member of the armed forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.” Reactions to the event from a small section of society have seen a significant increase in protests by far-right groups, together with attacks on mosques and Muslims. On Tuesday, two men were remanded in custody at the magistrates’ court in Grimsby after a mosque was petrol bombed and charged with arson with intent to endanger life. On Tuesday the tally of attacks on mosques since the Woolwich murder had reached 10.
Fiyaz Mughal, co-ordinator of the Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (Tell MAMA) project told Weekly Zaman: “On average we have between four to eight cases [of attacks against Muslims reported], eight at the most on a day. Since Wednesday, we’ve had 193 incidents logged. That’s about 40 a day, so you can see the spike and the difference there. We’ve had incidents that range from generalised abuse against victims, to hijabs being pulled, to mosques being fire-bombed through to a mosque where an individual was found with two knives trying to enter the mosque, and then cars being damaged. So you can see the range of incidents.”
Condemning the attack at Woolwich in the strongest terms, Mughal said that it is only natural that people should have a strong reaction to such an atrocity. “The problem is that we have a latent sense of Islamophobia in our society, which means that when people convulse after a barbaric crime like that, some individuals take it out on Muslim communities, when in fact everybody has been affected by the Woolwich incident. A small section of our society decided that they wanted to follow the line of the killers — that they wanted a war and some individuals decided they’d start attacking innocent people, which is very unfortunate.”
To help address this underlying current of Islamophobia, Mughal said that Muslims must start reporting hate crimes against them, as people often do not report when they have been the victim of an attack. He said Muslims also need to be more proactive in their communities and reflect a positive image of Muslims to those around them. “They need to be socially active and make sure that they work with other non-Muslim communities, engage with them, reflect a positive light on the lives that they lead and be socially active instead of being very much under the radar.”
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