The funeral for murdered soldier Lee Rigby takes place today and perhaps among all the tributes to this tragic victim of a terrible crime, we should ask ourselves what will prevent such attacks in the future, in a rational, truthful way, untainted by emotive pleas for revenge and retribution.
Like the volunteers of the International Brigades, many of today’s young Muslim men feel a far stronger bond with their fellow Muslims across the Middle East and beyond than they do with their fellow ‘Britons’. Whether the media refuses to accept this or not, this is a fact. Some feel so strongly about the treatment of their fellow Muslims that they are willing to bomb and murder others. Their aims and methods are horrific, but you cannot deny these men and women their ideology. In fact the media’s obsession with so-called ‘home-grown’ terrorists, from the 7/7 attacks to the murders of Lee Rigby is reflective of a wider denial. Reporters and self-elected ‘experts’ pretend there is no underlying political rationale for such attacks and that the perpetrators are simply naïve or evil. It was the same in the 70s and 80s with the IRA and any other organisation that opposes the dominant political narrative. These people are simply terrorists and murderers fuelled by an irrational hate for ‘us’ and ‘our values.’
But there is no ‘us,’ no ‘them.’ My values and sense of identity are entirely subjective, as are everyone’s. It is the cycle of hate, hate born not only of military action but political spin, the toppling of ‘rogue’ regimes and the support of Saudi, Bahrain, Turkey and Israel that fuels these young men (it’s almost always young men in their teens or 20s as it was in the International Brigades). As talks with the Taliban have proved, all wars eventually end in compromise or capitulation. We say we will remember those who died in Helmand or in Belfast, Burma or The Somme but soon enough, there’s another arena, another trade route to be protected and the world keeps spinning and kids keep dying.