Epitomising the typical British fashion, London continued to march on merely hours after its epicentre was attacked on Wednesday leaving a rising death count with a police officer among the deceased. Yet the city has determinedly kept a ‘keep calm and carry on’ stance as if to defiantly say that it won’t be deterred from being the vibrant, cosmopolitan city it has always been. The immediate police response in front of the cameras was interesting – a slightly cynical attitude towards ‘proactive journalists’ displayed their wariness towards the media’s past sensationalism. What was notably evident was how mindful the police has been of the risk of the levels of hatred towards the Muslim community in the aftermath of this murderous attack which was displayed by the police spokesman’s acknowledgement at our anxiety given the ‘past behaviour of the extreme right wing’. Given the circumstances, their response couldn’t have been more balanced.
The media reaction has been rather interesting with the Daily Mail struggling with its headlines trying to give this attacker some sort of attachment to Islam and Muslims but clutching at straws in the end. One story that went viral was of a Muslim woman appearing seemingly indifferent while an injured person lay on the ground as she walked past and it’s been heartening to see that people have responded sensibly and positively.
Across the pond, however, we’ve had Donald Trump’s son trying to stir up controversy towards Sadiq Khan, while American news outlets have attempted to paint London as a ‘ghost town’ as if the open tube stations and running transport services were evidence of a city shut down. What all of this has shown is that in spite of growing hate crimes towards minorities, including the Muslim community, the British media’s reaction to a murderous attack on its political institutions is still far more restrained and reasoned than we might see elsewhere. Even Tommy Robinson struggled to get a soapbox where he could preach his hate and was widely condemned for trying to stoke up trouble.
There will be those reading this with some cynicism, and some with hate declaring me to be a ‘government stooge’ or a ‘sellout’; this is merely a summary of how the overall reaction has been and, if looked at objectively, it seems rather balanced. We are, however, yet to see how the discussion proceeds about Muslims. But if the past few days are anything to go by, it shows that the British public are resolute in avoiding division and hate between communities.
Among some Muslims, there has been a spectrum of reactions with some either condemning the attacks, and others feeling the need to launch into a selective ‘whataboutery’ on deaths in Syria, Palestine and Burma. There is no doubt that these lives are equally important but the flaw in this attitude is that these rants tend to rear their head in an anticipatory, knee-jerk reaction to people dying in the West. Furthermore, they are discriminatory because they not only undermine the deaths of innocents in the West, but also ignore the deaths of other non-privileged, non-White, non-Muslims in other countries. They claim to ‘enjoin all that is good and forbid all that is evil’ but then also have the gall to perpetuate an anti-Black and a generally racist perspective. Where was their grief for the deaths of nine Black church members when Dylann Roof filled their bodies with bullets? They sanctimoniously focused on the identity of the killer instead of the killed to suit their own political narrative. The hypocrisy is astounding – they claim that people are selective when mourning for the deaths of their countrymen, all the while remaining selective in their own grief. Perhaps these very Muslims need to be reminded of the following hadith and the mercy entrenched within the prophetic practices instead of disgracefully dehumanising the deceased:
A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew.” The Prophet said, “Was he not a soul?”
Condemnation on its own can be perfectly acceptable, however its reasoning needs to be focused more on positive action and solidarity instead of falling prey to pressure from Islamophobes. To merely condemn for the latter reason is disingenuous to both the Muslim and the non-Muslim community, particularly if such people struggle to feel anything for those who have died or for their families. Furthermore, to resort to vacuous condemnation positions Muslims as onlookers and on the peripheral of wider society; it only confirms what people already assume – that the Muslim community chooses to segregate itself instead of getting actively involved. That’s why it was still incredibly encouraging to see Muslims United for London raise money for those affected by the killings. Unfortunately, it also showed that Muslims have to sometimes make a segregated effort to show their support for such a cause in order to overcompensate for the years of demonisation by the media as well as the apathy shown from the Muslim community itself.
Standing for London doesn’t necessitate that we can’t stand for anywhere else and by having such a mutually exclusive attitude will lead to the kind of division that misanthropes want in the first place. In an ideal world, we would all feel equally distraught in our anguish for innocents dying across the world, but on a practical level, we can do more for those living near us and have a direct impact on them without diminishing in our feelings or actions at the injustices being perpetrated across the world.