This week’s savage attack of a British soldier by a maniac identifying himself as a Muslim rocked the western world for a number of reasons. With the Boston bombing still somewhat fresh in the minds of the media, yesterday’s attack in Woolwich, SE London has left people wondering what is going on in the world these days. There seems to be no dearth of angry people with home-made weapons from pressure cookers to meat cleavers, and law enforcement is understandably having a hard time guessing who will strike next, where and how. As I read the news reports coming out from the UK the day of the attack, both on social media and news channels, the usual song and dance of Islamophobic blame followed by the Muslim apologies and condemnations made me weary. Here we go again.
How long will we continue to condemn and apologize for the actions of the deranged, as if one, ten or even a couple of million can represent 1.6 billion Muslims? When a white shooter kills elementary school kids, or a pastor burns the Quran, Christians everywhere don’t scramble to apologize publicly for the actions of individuals or fringe group. This discussion isn’t new, and yet the world in general doesn’t seem to have learned that divide and conquer has always been the best military/political strategy of all time. And so with the blame game, the terrorists win again.
Perhaps more interesting to me was the fact that recent attacks seems to be different from your average, garden variety “jihadi” terrorist attacks. First of all, starting with the Boston bombing, a new representation of so-called Islamic extremism is emerging: not Arab, not Middle-Eastern, not Pakistani, not even brown. The Woolwich attacker was Nigerian, those in Boston were Chechens. Both also were very clear on the reason for their actions, the Woolwich attacker going as far as to record his statement for cameras. People’s frustrations over western foreign policy including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have reached a boiling point. While killing innocents is never an acceptable form of protest, the reasons for these horrific actions are as clear as the drones used to kill one criminal and hundreds of civilians.
This, then, is the sad and unfortunate truth of the new generation of terrorist attacks: political statements that just happen to be intertwined with an Islamic extremist agenda because those under duress happen to be Muslim – an entirely different animal than 9/11. The pressing question is what can be done about it, how can we stop pointing fingers and demanding apologies and try to find solutions? Just like Adam Lanza’s murder spree gave rise to serious debate over gun control and mental illness (even the violent nature of video games), the attacks in Woolwich and Boston should be a cause for serious debate about foreign policy that results in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and leaves people so stark raving mad with anger and helplessness that they come out in the streets in revenge. We have to do something different, start asking tough questions of our leaders and demand accountability. Because otherwise this new breed of political terrorists will continue to strike in creative ways bound to leave us reeling.