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Friday 26 June 2015

When Terrorism Is Not Terrorism

When Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale butchered soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight near his barracks in Woolwich, there was no doubt in the press’ minds that this was not only murder, but a terrorist attack. Moreover, it was a Muslim terrorist attack, as the two killers had apparently converted to Islam, although they for some reason had not changed their names - well, not officially, anyway.
Awaiting sentence ... Zack Davies

So that kind of unprovoked attack - going after someone with the intent to kill them, armed with knives and the like - is terrorism, yes? Well, that clearly depends: yesterday, a sad nobody called Zack Davies was convicted of the attempted murder of Dr Sarandev Bhambra in a Tesco store in Mold. Davies had chased after his target, hacking at him with a machete, and had almost severed one of Dr Bhambra’s hands.

Had it not been for the calm intervention of former soldier Peter Fuller, Davies might have succeeded in killing his target. His objective was clear: he shouted “white power” and “Come here, this is for Lee Rigby”. Davies was part of a neo-nazi group calling itself National Action. The attack was clearly intended as a revenge killing. Dr Bhambra was targeted because he was Asian, and a Sikh.

Where, then, is the T-word this morning? Well, it isn’t: what reports have made the papers are not exactly being given the front page treatment - and Davies is not being called a terrorist. Nor is National Action being called a terrorist group (see my friend Sunny Hundal’s view on that aspect of the case HERE). The Mail is typical.

White supremacist who called Jihadi John an ‘inspiration’ is found GUILTY of trying to kill Asian dentist with machete and hammer in front of horrified Tesco shoppersreads the headline. The article tells that Davies was “A white supremacist who said he was inspired by Jihadi John … He was said to have been obsessed with Nazi ideology, with various associated literature found in a later police search of his home”.

The figure in the ISIS videos, nicknamed “Jihadi John” by the press, would most certainly be called a terrorist. Davies was “inspired” by him. He was tooled up with a machete, a hammer and a knife. The prosecution described him “as a racist with a fascination for Far Right ideologies and read everything from Koran passages, stickers for neo-Nazi group Combat 18 to Hitler’s Mein Kampf”. Yet the Mail does not call him a terrorist.

And this is not an isolated case: across the North Atlantic, the fatal shootings in Charleston recently, by a white extremist in a church where African-Americans worship, was not described as an act of terror in most news reports, in contrast to, for instance, the Fort Hood killings, which certainly were. If it’s terrorism when a black or Asian man does it, it’s terrorism if a white man does it. End of story.

The double standards on such issues one might expect from the Mail. It’s sad to read the BBC doing the same thing. Davies is a terrorist. It’s not different for whites.


SteveB said...

Davie, Adebolajo and Adebowale should have been described in the same way - agreed. But I would have accepted a tabloid headline of "NUTTERS" in both these cases. Calling them terrorists could give them a sort of street cred which may inspire others and these three really weren't on the right level of organisation to be classed as serious terrorists. As for National Action, they have the potential to be classed as a terrorist group in normal parlance but if the article is correct, their lack of any formal leadership may prevent current Anti-terrorist legislation from being applied (I seem to recall that organisation of a cause is a key requirement of the act). So to go after them hard might need the law to be changed (again) and that would need to come close to legislating on thoughts and opinions. Treating them as a serious and dangerous risk to public safety like hardcore football hooligans might be a better approach. It wouldn't infringe on freedom of thought, ordinary legislation on public order and violence can be used and has the added bonus of taking away any thoughts of being patriotic heroes which they may have.

Anonymous said...

Your're right - they're domestic terrorists - watching the right try to blame the killings in the US on anti-christian feeling was cringing but it displays what we know about this sort of thing, that communities and leaders in general have an issue in accepting any responsibility and try to play the whole thing down as a one off.

But then again, the poor labeling works both ways - I've never understood the label "radical" - this is the work of a bunch of bigoted, homophobic mysoginists. The radical label tries to show them as some sort of free or different thinkers and something to be understood when in fact, like all other bigots they're just nutters.

Anonymous said...

I agree they should be treated in the same way. I disagree that means calling them all "terrorists".

Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis. But I would abolish the use of the word "terrorist" in all cases, and just call them all "murderers". I would also abolish all specific"anti-terror" legislation. (these aren't original or unique ideas, I know)