No, David Cameron is not responsible for the murder of Lee Rigby

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

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Muslims cannot control their anger or their violent urges. Unlike us white, Christian-originated folk, they are given to outbursts of furious violence in response to things that offend or upset them. They’re automaton-like, seeing a horrible thing on TV or the internet and instantly feeling overcome with an urge to lash out, kill, bomb, destroy.

That, at least, is the offensive image of Muslims that is being unwittingly promoted by the left-leaning commentators and activists who claim that British foreign policy is responsible for Islamist attacks here at home. These observers think they are being radical, through suggesting that wicked, warmongering Tony Blair or David Cameron are ultimately responsible for 7/7 or the murder of Lee Rigby, but in truth they are depicting Muslims as a race apart, as morally inferior to the rest of us, as so lacking in agency that even their grave decision to murder others is not really their own.

No sooner had Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale been found guilty of murdering Drummer Lee Rigby than Islamist apologists were trying to absolve them of ultimate responsibility for their actions. In today’s Guardian, Seumas Milne says the murder of Rigby is the ‘predicted consequence’ of the ‘avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others’ since 9/11. In short, the two poor Michaels are simply caught up in an avalanche, being swept along by the tumultuous events of the post-9/11 era, dutifully playing a role created for them by Western powers: Fuming Muslims. It is our wars overseas that are ‘fuelling domestic terror attacks’, says Milne.

Milne is effectively putting forward an argument for diminished responsibility, suggesting that the Woolwich killers were mere actors in a larger tragic drama scripted by Washington and Whitehall. He echoes other commentators who have said that the murder in Woolwich was an ‘inevitable outcome’ of the war on terror. ‘Inevitable’ – think about what is being said here; basically that Adebolajo and Adebowale could not have stopped themselves even if they had wanted to. One commentator said it was Western powers that ‘created [the] bloodshed’ in Woolwich. In short, Adebolajo and Adebowale aren’t responsible for what they did.

These arguments aren’t radical; they’re reactionary. For what they really promote is the idea that angry young Muslims lack the capacity to make moral judgements and to restrain their urges. To say the murder in Woolwich was ‘inevitable’, was ‘created’ by others, was part of an ‘avalanche’ of Muslim fury unleashed by America and Britain, is not a blow against the West – it is a blow against the idea that Muslims, like the rest of us, are capable of sitting down, thinking straight, working out right from wrong, and making an independent decision about how to behave.

The truth is that there are only two people responsible for what happened to Lee Rigby: Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. They bear full responsibility, ultimate responsibility, all the responsibility, because they took a conscious decision to murder him. They decided on it, they planned it, they did it. And they could have stopped themselves at any time. Cameron or Blair are no more responsible for their depraved behaviour than The Beatles are responsible for what Beatles obsessive Charles Manson did, or JD Salinger is responsible for Catcher in the Rye fan Mark David Chapman’s assassination of John Lennon. People of a murderous bent will often look for a fancy-sounding justification for their low, immoral behaviour; what’s remarkable about Woolwich is that so many serious people are indulging the killers’ claims to be part of some kind of unstoppable mission.

A final question. I am made angry by Britain’s wars overseas; so are some of the well-educated white commentators claiming Adebolajo and Adebowale were ‘fuelled’ by powerful external forces. So would it be ‘understandable’ if one of us went outside right now and stabbed someone to death? If not, why not? Because we are white and non-Muslim and thus not so irrationally angry? Strip away the pseudo-radical bluster of the idea that Western wars cause domestic terrorism and you will find something very close to liberal racism, a view of Muslims as morally inferior, lurking underneath.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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