It is less than a month since Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, yet already the incident feels half-forgotten. In terms of the legal process, all is well. Two men have been charged. There will be a trial. No doubt justice will be done. But I have a sense that the horror felt at the crime is slipping away.
The media, notably the BBC, quickly changed the subject. After a day or two focusing on the crime itself, the reports switched to anxiety about the “Islamophobic backlash”. According to Tell Mamma, an organisation paid large sums by the Government to monitor anti-Muslim acts, “the horrendous events in Woolwich brought it [Islamophobia] to the fore”. Tell Mamma spoke of a “cycle of violence” against Muslims.
Yet the only serious violence was against a British soldier, who was dead. In The Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan brilliantly exposed the Tell Mamma statistics – most of them referred merely to nasty remarks on the web rather than actual attacks, many were not verified, no reported attack had required medical attention, and so on. Yet the “backlash” argument has sailed on, with people shaking their heads gravely about the need to “reassure” Muslims. Tell Mamma equates “hate inspired by al-Qaeda” with the “thuggery and hate of the EDL [the English Defence League]”.
A trap is set here, inviting those of us who reject such statements, to defend the EDL. I do not. While not, in its stated ideology, a racist organisation like the BNP, the EDL has an air of menace. It must feel particularly unpleasant for Muslims when its supporters hit the streets.
But the EDL is merely reactive. It does not – officially at least – support violence. It is the instinctive reaction of elements of an indigenous working class which rightly perceives itself marginalised by authority, whereas Muslim groups are subsidised and excused by it. Four days ago, six Muslim men were sentenced at the Old Bailey for a plot to blow up an EDL rally. The news was received quietly, though it was a horrifying enterprise. No one spoke of “white-phobia”. Imagine the hugely greater coverage if the story had been the other way round.
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