Fear and loathing in Woolwich

| May 31, 2013
Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

There has been and will be much said about the killing of serviceman Lee Rigby in Woolwich, South East London.

Thankfully such an incident is rare in the UK and therefore is obviously going to generate public comment and media attention.

I am aware that many of the words said in response to the Woolwich killing were, as it should be, in sympathy for the victim and his family and, most notably, this coming from all of the UK’s communities.

Post event, if you only pay attention to news reporting then it is hard not to get the impression that the UK has become a tinderbox of racial tension that is only one more spark away from being ignited.

While the headlines stop short of using the phrase ‘national crisis’ the underlying inference in the newspaper reporting of the concerns around David Cameron taking his annual holiday certainly suggest crisis moment.

Then we have radio station LBC hosting a phone-in that gave the public the opportunity to have their say on the Cameron holiday and by so doing confirm that we were living through a period of unease.

At many points during the LBC phone-in callers were asked to comment on whether they believed Cameron hadn’t got his finger on the pulse of public feeling and therefore was likely to misread, much like the British monarchy in the immediate aftermath of the death of Diana, the level of disquiet in London if not Britain.

Lee Rigby

The late Lee Rigby. Photo courtesy aishamusic.blogspot.com

It is not the media’s opinion that I’d take my pulse reading of where the Woolwich incident has left public feeling. It is in what ordinary people and the organisations that seek to guide ordinary people have to say that for me is much more important.

If the public opinion that I think I know has so changed, though it maybe too early to tell for sure, that communities are willing to turn on one another then the Woolwich killers have truly done their work. But it is not just the words that are not the only important factor here: it’s what organizations do in order to ensure that their words are headed and acted upon.

The Archbishop of Canterbury speaking at a joint press conference between religious leaders in Leicester, where he unsurprisingly suggested that it is “a time for communities to come together.” Without wanting to appear cynical it remains to be seen whether the church beyond the Archbishop’s words will do anything concrete.

It may well be the words of organizations like the Muslim Council of Britain that become significant action: they responded to the Woolwich incident by saying that, “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.”

From my perspective I feel that it is fair to say that the ability of the peaceful voice of Islam to reach the ears of the wider British public is largely down to the mainstream media.

Alleged killers. Photo courtesy www.policymic.com

Alleged killers. Photo courtesy www.policymic.com

It is my belief that since much of what is said by such organizations as the Muslim Council isn’t given the same level of media significance, which means that there are many who are happy to believe that the entire Muslim community is full square behind acts of terrorism.

In my journeying around London I get no sense that there are whole communities looking for an ideological or physical fight to the death. It seems to me that ordinary people are concerned but are not so frightened that can’t see things for what they really are. It is this common sense that I put my faith in as I say that this is ultimately what will keep us all safe no matter where in the world we live.

This event is so disturbing it has upset many in the Caribbean community thereby making Caribbean news.

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Category: African Caribbean, Caines Corner, Culture & Society

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