This article is essentially a response to a blog post written by Asghar Bukhari, co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK. His article can be viewed here:
To extensively dissect everything wrong with Bukhari’s essay is seriously beyond the scope of my time and inclination, but I will attempt to address the two main focus points of his article which are as follows: the motivations of Michael Adebolajo (the more outspoken of the two men who murdered British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich) and the role that Western Foreign Policy played in inciting him to commit this murder.
In Bukhari’s estimation, the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby was a direct response to British foreign policy and had nothing to do with extremism, Islamic holy scripture, the sermons of hate preachers or the Islamic concept of armed jihad – all of which he views as “fake propaganda fairy tales”. In a nutshell, the killers were, according to him, intelligent young Muslims being denied “freedom” by Western Governments and the attack on Lee Rigby had nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with western foreign policy.
It needs to be understood that these attackers are among a very large number of Muslims that align themselves not by nationality or heritage or locality but by religion. The notion of all Muslims belonging to an international brotherhood or commonwealth of believers based on a single ideology is known as The Ummah. A British born Nigerian with a pronounced South London accent commenting on the injustices of the British Government dropping bombs in “our lands” and the horrors inflicted on “our women” leaves little room for interpretation. The lands being referring to here are what Adebolajo himself would undoubtedly describe as “Muslim Lands” and the women being referred to are, of course, “Muslim Women”.
It should also be noted that the behaviour of these killers towards the armed police officers who responded to the attack was of a transparently suicidal nature. I remember vividly the testimony of the man who used his mobile phone to record the now infamous video of the attack in Woolwich and his utter bemusement as to why the perpetrators had made no attempt to escape, instead awaiting the arrival of an armed response unit and reacting with an act of hostility which would leave the police with no option but to fire upon them. As if it needed further clarification, Adebolajo has subsequently stated in police interviews that his intention was to die as a result of this crime.
I wonder where these killers could have got the notion that to kill and then be killed in defence of Muslims was a good idea. According to Bukhari it certainly wasn’t from Sura 4:74 of the Quran, which promises “vast rewards” for those who “slay and are slain in the way of Allah” and which constitutes an explicit justification for Islamic suicide attacks all over the world. Nor was it from Sura at-Tawbah (chapter 9 of the Quran) which is essentially one long invocation to murder unbelievers and which Adebolajo himself has cited as inculcating in him a responsibility to commit murder.
According to Bukhari it is a propagandist, Islamophobic fairy tale to even suggest that Michael Adebolajo’s attempt to decapitate his helpless victim, and then be killed by the armed response unit attending the scene, had any basis in the following passage from the Quran:
“So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks…And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds.”– Quran Surat 47:4
Even the most cursory examination of Adebolajo’s own words quickly exposes the flaws in the trite and knee-jerk riposte that this murder in particular, and Islamic violence in general, has no scriptural justification or mandate.
“We are forced by the Quran in Sura at-Tawbah, (and in) many many Ayah throughout the Quran, that we must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” – Michael Adebolajo 22nd May 2013
By his own admission; Adebolajo was inspired by a spiritual solidarity with other Muslims living in Muslim countries around the world, specifically countries in which perceived injustices are visited upon the Muslim population by Western Governments, and coupled with this adherence to The Ummah was a belief in the Islamic concepts of Jihad and Martyrdom.
Of course there are political factors involved in many cases of Islamic terrorism and when these political influences are espoused we are more than happy to listen and nod along sagely – if only our behaviour towards Muslims on the world stage were more agreeable we would not be facing these problems. It’s our own fault; we’ve brought it on ourselves with our history of imperialism and colonialism and our current foreign policy. However when religious justifications are mentioned in conjunction, we immediately turn our collective heads and pretend not to hear because truths of this kind are inconvenient. It is much more comfortable to think that there is something we can do (or stop doing) to prevent these kinds of attacks and that it is within our control to some extent.
In any case; considering that Adebolajo could not have been any clearer in stating his view that the Quran is precisely the justification he needed to murder this soldier and thereby further his political agenda, maintaining that the religion followed by Rigby’s killers did not inform their actions to any extent is a completely illogical position to take. Whether or not his interpretation of these verses is correct and regardless of whether he has taken them “out of context” (as we so often hear) it is a cold, hard fact that the Holy book of his religion was a direct inspiration for the attack and he has said so himself.
On the Foreign Policy question, I do not doubt that Rigby’s killers had a grievance over Western Foreign Policy. Again, Adebolajo has said so himself. However, rather than focus on the legitimacy or otherwise of these grievances let us examine what this means to us in the West and what action, if any, could be taken by our government to avoid having to endure suicide bombers on our public transport systems and off-duty soldiers being decapitated on London streets. In its most basic form we would need to abstain from interventionism in ‘Muslim lands’. We could not, for example, reverse our despicable policy of support for the Indonesian genocide against the people of East Timor. We would be forced to allow Saddam Hussein and his family of psychopathic criminals to rape, torture and kill the citizens of Iraq and its neighbours whilst harbouring and supplying aid to international terrorists. We could not act to prevent this despotic madman acquiring weapons of mass destruction from North Korea. We could not move to dismantle the terrorist organisation responsible for the 9/11 attacks and we could not bring the orchestrator of this atrocity to justice. Nor could we act to prevent and punish the human rights abuses committed by Colonel Gaddafi and his forces in Libya.
In short, secular western governments would need to relinquish the right to form their own foreign policy in the interests of their respective states and would instead be required to hand over that responsibility to those with a predilection for infusing religion with politics, for delegating territory on the basis of religious persuasion and for brazenly claiming the right to speak for all Muslims on matters of geo-politics. Islamists who presumptuously claim to epitomize a bloc Muslim opinion on interventionism somehow fail to represent the Muslims that applauded the French intervention in Mali, or the Muslims that elatedly greeted the arrival of allied troops on Iraqi soil or the Muslims of the Northern Alliance that fought alongside coalition troops in Afghanistan. Moreover in capitulating to the more murderous and sociopathic elements of the global Muslim community we would in effect be expressing a willingness to submit to terrorism. Proposals of this kind are not only obscene but in the long term they are suicidal and would quickly show themselves to be ineffective in preventing Islamic violence anyhow.
Islamic expansionism and aggression precedes Western colonialism by roughly a thousand years – long before America or Israel even existed as countries. Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja advised Thomas Jefferson over two hundred years ago that the justification for the kidnapping and enslavement of more than a million westerners by the Muslims of the Barbary States was none other than Koranic scripture. This was long before America had even formed a strategic foreign policy let alone engaged any of the Muslim world militarily.
Even if we were to ignore such facts and accept the notion of colonialism and interventionism as pretexts to Islamic violence, we would have a great deal of work still ahead of us in using it to explain the root cause of threats, rioting and murders in response to cartoons published in an afternoon newspaper by a country with no history of aggression towards the Muslim world.
Kurt Westegaard, author of one of the Danish cartoons, lives under constant police protection after a number of attempts have been made on his life by Muslims outraged by his depiction of the Prophet and when given the opportunity in the Western media to unequivocally condemn these attacks against international embassies and civilians in no uncertain terms, the spokespeople for moderate Islam instead used these platforms to express their offence not at the criminal acts of their Muslim brothers, but at the Danish press exercising its right to free speech.
I fail to see how this savage response and subsequent diversion of blame from and by members of the Islamic community could have any link whatsoever to the foreign policy of Britain, the United States or indeed Denmark.
Salman Rushdie, to my knowledge, had no say in Western Foreign policy and yet for the crime of writing a novel he was sentenced to death by the spiritual leader of Shia Islam in Iran. Theo Van Gogh was murdered in broad daylight in the middle of a heavily populated street in Holland for making a film that was critical of the Islamic treatment of women. Neither the apparent blasphemy of Van Gogh nor the Islamic misogyny he was criticising had any connection to Western Foreign policy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s outspoken opposition to male supremacy within Islamic culture has no basis in Western Foreign Policy but that inconvenient fact does not negate her need to surround herself with bodyguards on a 24 hour basis. She is a Somalian apostate of the Muslim faith and a ‘defamer of the prophet’ both of which are crimes which carry the death penalty in the more extreme parts of the Muslim world and she is under no illusions that there are plenty of Muslims that mean to impose this punishment upon her.
To speak publically and in a negative light about any aspect of Islamic culture, tradition or scripture is to seriously endanger your life in almost any country in the world in the 21st Century regardless of that country’s history of imperialism or indeed its lack thereof. If Muslim violence is born purely out of frustration at the Wests aggressions towards Muslim nations then it renders the plights of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali an enigma.
To lay the blame for Islamic violence directly and solely at the feet of Western Foreign Policy is not only to completely disregard the teachings of the Quran and Hadith, but it is also to suggest that Muslims themselves do not take their religious doctrine seriously. It may be the case that truly moderate, cultural and secular Muslims choose to ignore or reinterpret the Islamic concepts of armed Jihad and martyrdom but I would suggest that the same accusation could not be made towards ‘extremist’ Muslims who, by definition, take these doctrines extremely seriously, often quoting chapter and verse in the videos they regularly make before committing their atrocities.
I do not see how anyone could, with a straight face, accuse the Muslim who is not only willing to kill himself in the name of Allah but is positively enthusiastic about doing so, of being the one who takes his religion less seriously than the average Muslim. We can argue all day long about whether he has theological justification for his actions and we can debate whether or not he has misinterpreted certain texts that appear to endorse his actions, but it is clear that he rightly or wrongly believes he has scriptural support in committing his act of martyrdom. To accuse him of a flippant or insincere attitude towards the very religion he is willing to die for is laughable.
Let us be clear; the demand of Adebolajo along with other suicide murderers and fundamentalists is that there be no western intervention in any “Muslim land” under any circumstance. That simple mandate at once reinforces the inextricable marriage between politics and religion which is somewhat unique to Islam and at the same time mandates that the foreign policy of non-Muslim countries must conform to its will. Secular democracies are, by their very nature, not bound by the edicts of religious tribalism and calls for our government to take dictation from the homicidal elements within these communities should and will be resisted.
For the moment, put aside personal opinion on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and on the legitimacy or otherwise of certain conflicts engaged in by the British military and ask yourself the following fundamental question: Would you rather our country’s foreign policy were decided by our government in line with our nation’s interests, or would you prefer to relinquish that decision and place it in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists and murderous fanatics? Make no mistake; this is the choice you are being offered by apologists for Islamic terrorism when the subject of Western Foreign Policy is proffered as the sole root cause for such violence.
Adebolajo and Adebowale certainly shared a hatred of Western Foreign policy but it was their adherence to The Ummah and their understanding of Martyrdom and Jihad as detailed in Islamic scripture that shaped their actions on 22nd May 2013. Asghar Bukari, it seems, wants only to represent one side of that story.