Like most of you watching the news yesterday and today, I was horrified that such an attack could take place. There is and never can be an excuse for mindless violence. My own belief, shared with many of you, is that no political agenda is weighty enough to justify the taking of a human life. Life is and should always be regarded as sacred.
However, and I'm going to be honest, what has shocked me to a far greater extent than the blood spilled on the streets of Woolwich has been the attitude of the media and the general public to the atrocity. The spewing and outpouring of racial hatred on Facebook, Twitter etc has been entirely unnecessary and, quite frankly, bloody disgusting. I am appalled to see status updates from people I once liked and respected calling for Muslims to be banned from the country (and much worse). I have for the first time ever in my life felt ashamed to be British as in the last 24 hours the British flag has popped up everywhere tainted with the stigma of racist hatred and bigotry.
I'll be even more honest – the odd murder here and there has lost its power to shock me. Acts of violence appear in the paper every day. I think I've become a little jaded by eighty year old women raped in their beds, children abused by their own parents, fathers killing their babies to revenge themselves on their spouse. I'm not saying we should accept it as everyday life because of course we shouldn't. But what I am saying is bad things happen, they happen every day. If anyone is surprised that the odd individual is capable of acts of extreme cruelty and evil then they can't have left their house much in the last ten years. Certainly they haven't read a newspaper. It never ceases to surprise me that humanity in general is so surprised by the darker side of its nature.
And I'll go one step further – I doubt the individual slaughtered soldier or indeed any self respecting soldier would wish for the onset of extreme civil unrest to avenge the death of a single individual. Our servicemen understand the principle of sacrificing life for a cause. This man who has dedicated his life to a profession which attempts to bring peace to the world will have died in cruel irony if his death only brings a racially inspired revolution to the country. Perspective, in this as with everything, is critical.
The difference with the events in Woolwich yesterday lies in the reaction to the atrocity, not the murder itself. We have a country united in grief and lashing out with bigotry and hatred to find somebody to blame. And instead of placing the blame where it very obviously belongs which is at the feet of the individual who made the choice to slaughter a serviceman, the country appears to be using this an excuse to turn on the Muslim community and embrace a self righteous holier than thou attitude to a cultural group who make up a good proportion of our community and who follow a religion predominantly associated with peace.
Now I own a copy of the Quran and I've taken the time to have a read of it. And I can tell you categorically that Islam is a peaceful religion. There is nothing in the Islamic holy texts that promotes the slaughter of the innocent. The average Muslim is no more a religious extremist than the average Christian wants to join the Westboro Baptist Church. We taint entire communities with the evil acts of a single individual at our peril and in doing so we foolishly allow bigotry to cloud our better judgement. I'm hoping, really hoping that the unprecendented level of racism I have been forced to witness in the last 24 hours is nothing but a knee jerk reaction to the horror of Woolwich and that when people calm down they will take a more balanced view and reach the understanding that the Muslims with whom we share our lives and our country present no more of a threat to the average citizen than any other demographic living in Britain today.
I'd like to think that the xenophobic idiots (do people seriously vote BNP?) spewing their hatred on social media are being ignored by the majority. Certainly it hasn't gone unnoticed that on the many Pagan sites I belong to there has been a much more tolerant view of placing the blame on the perpetrator of the crime and not attempting to tar the entire Muslim population with the accusation of terrorism. I'm hoping this is strong evidence that those spouting their hatred are very much in the minority.
(Excuse me while I spell it out to the stupid – Yes, I am most definitely talking to you people who are putting your nasty little voices on the social networks, hiding behind the grief of others to bring your bigotry forth. Just so you know exactly who I am getting at here. Every one of you who has used this crime as an excuse to promote your own bitter racist agenda should be ashamed of yourselves. You glory in being British but your attitude has nothing to do with national pride. Were I the British Government it would be you narrow minded racists I would be deporting – and fast! I'd be extremely thankful if I were you that the Degu Witch isn't the PM.)
Likely these small minded types are trying to look good and talk big. Idiots will always jump on band wagons to try and get their little voices heard. It's pretty pathetic but I suppose that ultimately as long as those shouting their hate are ignored by the rest of us, hopefully their voices will soon cease to be heard. I've still got (just) enough faith in human nature to believe there are far more decent people out there than they are racist bigots.
However, there is a darker picture that comes to my mind. This underlying level of racist hatred is exactly how Nazi Germany started. It didn't start with Hitler and the Government, despite what the history books tell you. It started with ordinary people - the likes of you and me – turning against whole sections of the community and demonising them for arbitary reasons. Nazi Germany happened because ordinary people were not strong enough to stand up for their beliefs and refuse to let people be condemned simply for being who they are. Evil flourished, as is stated in that famous quotation, because: “Good men did nothing.”
Well this isn't Germany 1939, its Britain 2013, but I'll tell you what, I'm never going to let it go down in history that I stood by and played my part in allowing innocent people to be persecuted. I refuse to be part of the silent majority who does nothing and I refuse to be afraid of giving an opinion that goes against the rubbish I am seeing on my Facebook feed today. I can't put it plainly enough, I will not be part of a society that persecutes others and I will always speak out against hatred when I find it.
And you can hold me to that.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/520882/?forcedownload=1 (ushakov)