Two men attacked and killed Drummer Lee Rigby, of 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, before they were shot by armed police and taken to hospital where they are still receiving treatment.
The attack in Woolwich, south-east London, has led to a renewed focus on terrorism and Islamist extremism in the UK as well as an increase in tension and attacks on Muslims in Britain. Two men have been charged with separate attacks on mosques, in Kent and Essex, after the death of the soldier. With far-right groups seeking to translate public disgust at the killing into general anti-Muslim and are reacting just as the murderers had hoped they would. There are reports of mosque attacks similar to incidents that occurred after the Tube and bus bombings of 7 July 2005.Vaguely disguised acts of racism quite at odds with the general public mood. The military charity Help for Heroes said since the attack people had been “spontaneously showing support for the armed forces”. The following leading figures and institutions have spoken out about the attack and what it means to the various communities as well as British society as a whole.
The Muslim Council of Britain
This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the armed forces. 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.
This action will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom. We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail. It is important we allow our police authorities to do their job without speculation. We also urge the utmost vigilance and ask the police authorities to calm tensions.
Julie Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Britain
We need to remain calm and people need to remain vigilant.
We need to make sure we don’t allow extremists to divide the country. We need to remain calm and measured and get the message out there that we will not allow this to divide us.
It was an attack on all of us, on our country, all of us.
It’s very hard for the good people of this country to understand what’s going on. How can you say your religion is a religion of peace and then you have a guy literally with blood on his hands and a knife in his hand doing something completely the opposite?
I don’t think it matters what is happening in another country in any way whatsoever. This should never have happened. There is no justification.
Col Mike Dewar, security and defence analyst
Everyone says it’s a terrorist attack but personally I think it depends on what your definition of terror is. These two appeared to be two individuals, deluded, with extremist ideas, Islamist or not.
The main point is its most unlikely to be a terrorist incident: the formula for that is that it needs to be done by a recognised organisation, the maximum number of people need to be killed and then the terrorists need to escape, to possibly kill other people.
The man killed might have been a soldier or he was certainly sympathetic to soldiers, making him an obvious target. But then the men discussed their reasoning with bystanders: this is nutter territory.
Too early to tell if it’s more than deluded individuals. They may have been groomed but it doesn’t make them terrorists. Just heinous murder.
Jahan Mahmood, a community leader from Birmingham
There needs to be better collaboration between the authorities and the communities.
In many instances the government hasn’t really listened and there is a lot of talk about doing the work that they claim to carry out and the same can go for a number of senior Muslim organisations
These attackers are two isolated individuals who appear to be brainwashed and indoctrinated.
One of them appeared to quote from the bible. An extreme jihadist Muslim would not quote from the bible.
We are sickened by these types of events and we are deeply disturbed by their misguided interpretations of the faith
Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee
We need to look at who carried out this barbaric crime and follow it up swiftly.
People need to stay calm – I think some of the stories that we’ve heard this morning of demonstrations in certain areas… this is not helpful to the police. The police should not be distracted from the very important work that they have to do.
The crucial focus in the next 24 hours is to let Bernard Hogan-Howe [Metropolitan Police commissioner] and his team look and see what happened.
Usama Hasan, a senior researcher at Quilliam, a think tank specialising in counter-extremism
The real problem here is the decisive hatred preached by a very small minority of clerics in this country in a small number of our mosques and universities.
They know who they are and there are Muslim groups and other groups, left-wing groups, may I say, who defend that kind of grievance and victim-hood mentality. That’s what must change and has to stop. A very small number of people but unfortunately their influence is too high.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
It is completely wrong to blame this killing on the religion of Islam but it is also equally wrong to try to draw any links between this murder and the foreign policy or the action of British forces who are risking their lives abroad for the sake of freedom.
The fault lies wholly and exclusively in the warped and deluded mind-set of the people who did it.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General
I strongly condemn this shocking and barbaric crime. Such attacks can never be justified. Our thoughts at this terrible time are with the victim’s family and friends. We stand in solidarity with the British government and the people of Britain.
Ajmal Masroor, an Imam and broadcaster in London
If it does it’ll be a tragedy because we would have allowed the terrorists and the thugs to win the battle, or the narrative. We don’t want to go down that route.
I would like to call upon every community member listening that there are racist thugs in our country, there are criminals, there are murderers, there are paedophiles – we don’t all become vigilantes and we don’t go around attacking one another.
At this moment in time when things are very difficult we would all make a distinction. These idiots have done this, there is no God in what they’ve done, it is not done in the name of Islam. It is not done for Muslims; it is just their thuggish low-life scum mind-set.
Dr Brooke Roger, senior lecturer in risk and terror at King’s College London
One of the problems in preventing violent radicalisation is the slight disconnect between the role of the security services tasked with monitoring and protecting us and some of the more local authorities and community-based groups.
Local authorities go in with long-term strategies and long-term goals. When something like this occurs we start bringing in the security services who have a long-term role but also have to act in the moment.
We need to make sure these groups are working together and they’re not undoing some of the relationships and trust that’s been built up.
I do think the websites are a significant problem. People can find the information if they want it and I think that is a problem.
We very much need to keep a balance between freedom to access information and understand the nature of individuals and the psychological process that occurs when they see this information.
Jim Murphy MP, shadow defence secretary
This horrendous and horrific act against our armed forces has shocked us all. In our moments of anger we should be strengthened in our national resolve to tackle hatred and terrorism wherever they exist.
The government and security services have our full support in establishing the facts and preventing any future such crimes.
As a country we should respond with a reassertion of the values of tolerance and justice, the values that these extremists hate so much about our country.
We should all help to ensure our armed forces never feel fearful in public. They protect us, and today each of us can send a loud message of support, solidarity and gratitude to all service personnel serving in our towns and cities at home and overseas.
Barack Obama, US President
Barack Obama says his country “stands resolute with the United Kingdom, our ally and friend, against violent extremism and terror”.