Thinking about death, six miles from Woolwich

Flowers lie outside Woolwich Barracks on May 23.
I have really nothing to say about the horrible atrocity yesterday five miles down the road from my house in Woolwich, South London. There is nothing to be said. It was a horrific act, performed for the video cameras and for social media. It was an act of insanity, justified by a perverse and evil Islamist ideology. The responses of the EDL and other bigots - attacking mosques in Gillingham and Braintree, for example - were less atrocious but also mindless.

Against this we stack the the keep calm and carry on response of multicultural Woolwich, the bravery of passers by, the immediate denunciation of the atrocity by ordinary Muslims, the local anger at EDL opportunism.

One part of the left has been (once again) banging on about "root causes", i.e. what we do, which is like saying the "root cause" of rape is short skirts. CND trotted out a lightweight version of the same stupidity, describing the vicious butchering of a man for wearing the wrong T-shirt as some kind of inevitable "consequence" of Tony Blair's war.

George Galloway took the opportunity to smear the Syrian resistance, likening its Islamist strain to that which manifested in Woolwich - ignoring the thousands killed by Assad, ignoring his own previous cheer-leading of al-Qaeda linked terrorism in Iraq, ignoring his own stirring of the embers of perceived Muslim grievance in "Muslim lands". (No doubt he will stir further tonight, when he appears on the Iranian terror state's propaganda outlet to pontificate about what happened.)

Left Unity responded to the terror by talking about the "real" terrorism, i.e. what the West is doing, which may or may not be true (in my view it isn't) but is beside the point when most ordinary people here are shocked and grieving for Drummer Lee Rigby - about as sensitive as telling someone whose mother is dying of cancer that the real killer is car crashes.

And then some of the lefties I follow on Twitter seemed a lot more bothered by the racism that came out in response to the killing than by the killing itself, talking about "this shitty country" when all the evidence points to a pretty shitty world, which may not be the worst reaction but troubled me somewhat. It is worth remembering those attacked and killed by racists for being Muslim. For example, Mohammed Saleem, 75, was killed in Birmingham on his way home from prayers at his local mosque, and the motive may have been racism. But we mustn't score those attacks off against this attack, out of masochistic self-indulgent self-hatred or in some obscene zero sum identity politics game.

Grieve for this brave soldier in Woolwich, grieve for Mohammed Saleem, grieve for those killed in Iraq, for those killed by drones and by Islamists in Pakistan, for those killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, for the victims everywhere of preachers of hate and death.

That's all.


To donate to Help for Heroes go here. To report or get help with an anti-Muslim hate crime go here.

James Bloodworth's response was very sensible, as always. I liked Little Richardjohn's complex response. Darryl writes from close to ground zero. Aloevera's response to Glenn Greenwald is very pertinent. And below the fold are some of the more pertinent Twitter responses:

  1. Bloody EU migrants, coming over here, confronting our home-grown terrorists.

  2. no, only that he knows too much. Something that got people 'bumped off' in crime fiction!

  3. Diversity exists in every "group." Enough with "spokesmen" (always men) from X "community." 3/3

  4. Someone should let Dawkins know that nation states are fictional too.

  5. What is this country coming to? Soldiers ordered to hide their status in public? Wear your uniforms with pride, and fuck you if you object.

  6. Here's an idea: Muslims go on a peace march wearing Help for Heroes T shirts.

  7. All across the internet British soldiers & ex soldiers have been changing their profiles to pictures of themselves in uniform.

  8. Dear I will respond to like the proud British National I am - with INCREASED tolerance, understanding, unity and stoicism.

  9. Interesting that the rambling psycho with the bloodied knife last night quoted Exodus 21:24 ("eye for an eye") rather than the Quran.

  10. happened just down the road from me. And last night the EDL were obliging on trying to give them a war. Can't stand it :(

  11. ": Best tweet of last night: "unfortunately there's not much I don't know”" overwhelming modesty? ha ha

  12. I don't believe those EDL bastards. First the greedy sods double my energy bill and now I hear they're all racists. I'm switching supplier.

  13. So in other words, the West brought 9/11 on itself? People like you really are a godsend to the Islamists.

  14. ": Possibly the greatest news reporting of all time. " this guy summed it up the best. Nyt.

  15. A quick reminder of the 's appreciation of our national heritage: they thought Brighton Pavilion was a mosque


  17. feeling v proprietorial about birthplace Woolwich, & (prob stupidly) surprised by the assumptions about it on twitter.

  18. On your case? Some situations demand we show sensitivity. This is one of them. U dont want to contribute to more hurt!

  19. Here's a picture of , home of UK / extremism, taken earlier tonight. Scary!!

  20. I forgot why I loved my city for a moment. Then I remembered that all those ordinary people who tried to stop the killers in Woolwich.

  21. Picture-perfect screen-grab of Galloway praising Iraqi insurgents in Damascus:

    Image will appear as a link
    1. Geoarge Galloway=Lord Haha WW II

  22. Remind him of his praise for al-Qaeda in Iraq when he spoke at al-Assad Library in Sham in 2005:

  23. Seriously. RT This sickening atrocity in London is exactly what we are paying the same kind of people to do in Syria

  24. Blood is not dry on street after horrific crime, but already scoring cheap political points ( + in defense)

  25. you're EDL nonsense is a disgrace to the Stretford End. Go follow Leeds.

  26. enlighten me in the space provided : _______________________________________________________________________________________

  27. Trying to log on to site (which seems to be down) so I can put their logo and donate button on my own website.

  28. She's also a hero >> “: My mum is a motherfucking badass

  29. Too early to say anything very useful about Woolwich. If you believe in prayer, pray for the dead man. If not, maybe give to .

  30. There can be no justification for awful Woolwich murder but we cannot allow racists to use it to whip up hatred

  31. Thoughts are with my city tonight.

  32. Now is not the time to point fingers - justice will be done. Let loved ones grieve & support those in shock seeing today's horror.

  33. Immigrants tend to appreciate what they found in the UK whereas these f*ckers are spoilt brats looking for a mission in life

  34. not too worried about the EDL showing up in Woolwich. They have to take to get there. No chance.

  35. Greenwich and Woolwich is a strong and diverse community. We will stand together against murderers AND the EDL

  36. Muslims shouldn't apologise for individual barbarism, but they feel outraged that sick weirdos are hijacking their religion.

  37. British Muslims take to Twitter to express disgust at beheading - my blog

  38. Woolwich murder rightly condemned. Thanks to everyone who supported - many of those brave people were Muslims, of course

  39. No need to be so rude. Are you honestly saying that no aspects (such as CSDS or certain FSA battalions) remain secular?

  40. I can't imagine what that poor man's family must be going through. Imagine having your loved one's murder treated in this way.

  41. If British Army never intervened in Bosnia (to help Muslims) than me & my family might not be alive today. RIP soldier

  42. I'm not going to watch the video of the murderers in . That's what the killers want me to do. I refuse to fulfill their wish.

  43. Post on reactions to Woolwich attack updated - Greenwich Council held its mayor's knees-up as planned tonight

  44. This guy says he knows one of the Woolwich attackers. Say he changed his name and converted. Grain of salt.

  45. Members of 's large Somali Muslim population lay flowers at scene of today's horrific murder...

  46. Don't forget that UK Muslims also serve proudly in the British armed forces. Keep perspective:

  47. SICK of these people who call themselves Muslims then orchestrate these barbaric attacks. F*** off stop doing it in our name!!

  48. My mum used to say: "You've got two ears and one mouth, use them in that ratio." Of course, tweeters have two ears and ten digits.


"And then some of the lefties I follow on Twitter seemed a lot more bothered by the racism that came out in response to the killing than by the killing itself"

This tells us something is perverse in the thinking of these people. But nothing new. Remember the first issue of LRB after 9/11 featured Edward Said, and others, doing exactly the same.

And during the intifada, whenever there was a singularly bloody massacre of innocent Israelis, the same Rancid leftists seem to come out even more outraged against Israelis.

It's a complicated and irrational reaction and can perhaps be explained by Norm Geras:

"Here is what can sometimes happen: one person wrongs another and doesn't know how to come back from that. So they deepen the wrong. They add further or worse misdemeanours, falsehoods, calumnies or what have you to the original one. This is the dynamic: to reinforce the thought that the first wrong wasn't one, anything which might diminish its recipient helps the offending party convince him or herself that the other must be a bad person, so that the first offence against them was somehow deserved. The deepening process is itself the symptom of a moral discomfort that cannot be squarely faced."

It appears that to consider each horrific act in itself and the harm it brought to people and the world would somehow be tantamount to losing face.

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