On another anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks, when communities stand together in shared condemnation and grief, some continue to exploit this collective trauma for political ends.
In the early hours of Monday morning, vandals targeted the 7/7 memorial in Hyde Park. London Live reported that stencilled messages included “Blair lied thousands died”, “Four innocent Muslims” and “July 7 truth”.
When Britain First shared the story, the response was anything but pleasant. Despite an ongoing police investigation, and the graffiti removed, many of their supporters instantly blamed Muslims (as a minority pointed the finger at Unite Against Fascism).
The narrative of collective guilt intoxicated some to express the sentiment of revenge and violence:
“four dead muslims!!!!!!!!! and counting”
“Only four?….what a shame”
“NO such thing as an innocent muslim. they are all as guilty as hell. IF OUR GOVERMENT DON ACT THEN ITS UP TO US”
“They are very twisted ugly people who should be shot. Send the ugly vermin back to their savelos. There will be a holy war but this time we will win!”
“They should all be put in a house and gassed, then chopped up and burnt”
Others called for revenge against mosques, “muslims man can’t leave nowt alone let’s vandalise the mosques.” That single comment attracted over fifty individual Facebook ‘likes’.
One supporter even suggested spraying Muslim’s directly with pig’s blood to ‘wash them’ away from towns and cities.
Broadly speaking, Britain First’s use of pseudo-paramilitary imagery and language is potentially inspiring more violent fringes. On July 5, the anti-Islam page ‘War Against Islam – UK’ posted a photo of armed loyalists from Northern Ireland with the caption “Free English Army! Armed and Ready!”
This call to arms inspired such comments, “Lets fucking av it you muzrat cunts!!! NO SURRENDER!!!” If the last part sounds familiar, it is the shortened slogan of the English Defence League’s (EDL) “No Fucking Surrender Ever.” One prominent group member lists several far-right groups (including Britain First) among his Facebook ‘likes’.
Online abuse of Muslims (and others) is the cigarette burn of intolerance; the wound might appear superficial and even trivial to some; but it burns at a deeper level.
As we stop to remember the victims of terrorism, the language of vengeance, of abhorrent racism, and violence should not seduce us. Nor should it tempt us into collective guilt.
Many in Britain will rightly reject this rhetoric but on the fringes, these views are potentially gaining traction.