I woke up Monday morning slightly too late to see my family before they headed to work, but instead, eating breakfast alone, caught up on the horrific news of an attack outside Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park.
My Twitter feed, naturally, was full of sentiments of prayer and love, but Facebook appeared much more barren. There was significantly less noise than there had been following the attack at Borough Market, and definitely less conversation than that which followed the attacks in Manchester or Westminster.
If I had woken up when my alarm had sounded, had breakfast with my parents as usual, I’d hasten a very uncomfortable bet that last night’s attack would not have been mentioned. And I’m hesitant to argue that it’d be because this attack was Islamophobic – rather than in the name of Islam – while I’m positive this may have been, in some cases, valid. I can’t help but feel that extremist attacks such as this are perceived to be commonplace and that people are desensitised to reports of terror.
And I can begin to empathise with this feeling of being overwhelmed. While not to say that we should ever give up, or in; repetitive calls from politicians to ‘Stay united’ because ‘They will not divide us’ maintain the most valid of points. There will be a point after this, where there are new troubles to face as a country and again, those we shall deal with as we shall with this. But this sentiment of tiredness, exasperation, and fear must be processed quickly, lest us let go of the hope which drove our politics in the first place.
In the last few days, ‘The Great Get Together’ brought communities together to commemorate the one year anniversary of Jo Cox’s murder, standing testament to legacy of a career based upon core principles of unity and multiculturalism – particularly in the face of adversity. Elected MP of Batley and Spen in the 2015 election, she was an MP with a refreshingly international perspective. She used her maiden speech to celebrate her constituency’s ethnic diversity, extensively campaigned for a solution to the Syrian Civil War, and was a supporter of the Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East.
Her activism was ignorant to the distraction of party politics, working with those across the House when co-authoring an article for The Observer with Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell which argued that military forces could help achieve an ethical solution to the conflict in Syria. Her work extended further: writing to the Nobel Committee, praising the work of the Syrian Civil Defense. She was one of 36 MPs whom provided Jeremy Corbyn with nomination in the 2015 Labour leadership election – not in particular agreement with his views and potential policies, but for the benefit of broader debate.
And her biggest champion, husband Brendan Cox, today released a statement which argued that we must treat right-wing extremists in the same way that we would treat islamist extremists, and as such, identify the root of radicalisation. Given the vast differences between the two versions of extremism there are equally varied causes of such radicalisation and both must be explored completely. There must be condemnation, prayers, etc, for the benefit of history and those most hurt, but there must also be more honest, just and productive conversations about the challenges we face.
There is an unwritten but much declared pride in our country that we are multicultural. Damn right, we’re proud of it. We are multicultural in our numbers and, for the most, in practice. There is an extremist perspective – whether so-called islamist, or right-wing – which is contradictory to the success of a multicultural society. To this end, we need to own up to racism, islamophobia and hatred in an effort to really highlight extremism. Defences of racism aren’t productive. Likewise, equally, genuine, fair and sensitive conversations need to be had about the process of radicalisation in terms of extremism, falsely, in the name of Islam. Islam does not teach evil (see the fucking billion muslims who are not extremists and/or terrorists, for reference). It is imperative that in our approach to these issues we have no excuse for islamophobia, nor any attacks on the global muslim community.
To add to this never ending list: conversations must also be had, as Jeremy Corbyn has suggested, about the impact of incomplete foreign policy. In December 2015, Jo Cox abstained in a Commons vote to approve UK military intervention against ISIL in Syria. Her reasoning was not in her being opposed to military action, but that she believed in a more comprehensive strategy that had the potential for long-term success, the exact perception that we must all now adopt.
The overwhelming feeling which I know so many of us are currently feeling said feeling twice is not a direct consequence of extremism. It’s the sum of pain we’ve seen throughout our communities, time and time again; and this is an image people across the world are becoming accustomed to. Yet, we must again find the hope for all of our futures to overcome the very extremism which seeks to destroy that which we have left no sense. Whether this extremism is falsely in the name of Islam, right-wing, left-wing, whatever: it is wrong, damaging, and dangerous. And with our parliament being relatively non-parliamentary – and this is not a political jibe – it is of paramount importance that we put our more surface differences aside to recognise we have more in common than that which divides us.
Be good to each other.
Get Volume #19 now.
Words by Matt Bates