The reaction to the Woolwich murder denies British Muslims a political voice

Rachel Shabi writes: This debate isn’t just sealed shut, it has round-the-clock protection. In the context of the Woolwich killers, there is to be no connection made to British foreign policy in the Middle East. That, we are told, is because the link is erroneous, an attempt to justify (as opposed to just understand), and an appeasement to terrorists. Oh, and also: those making the link only do so because of a tedious tendency to blame the west for everything.

All that’s bad enough, but British Muslims also say that, for them, making this connection is even harder because of the fear that, despite being just as worried about the issue as anyone else, they will be viewed as having somehow stepped on to a conveyor belt that leads inexorably to violent extremism.

It is no surprise that those policing this closed debate should be politicians and the defenders of a disastrous series of invasions in the Middle East – for who would want to claim that the very policies they deployed or supported are the ones that even partly account for blowback terror? British politicians avoid saying it even as their own security officials warn that foreign policy in places such as Iraq has created a greater risk of terrorism on British soil. And meanwhile, the fact that violent extremists all cite the same thing – occupation and wars in Muslim lands – is hastily dismissed as a crazed coincidence.

Of course, only a really tiny proportion of this anger actually turns violent – but to stifle a discussion over any element of causality is essentially to dismiss the reasons why people might be confused, outraged or frustrated by Britain’s foreign policy in the first place. And the anger over western policy is obvious; its causes both real and palpable. Corrosive, hypocritical western policy is one key subject that is constantly raised in conversations across the Middle East. There’s the long-standing dishonesty in the way the west in effect endorses Israel’s continued military occupation of the Palestinian people. [Continue reading…]

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