Mark Urban at the BBC explains the ways the Woolwich murder is different from other such murders – it’s not networked, it’s just a couple of guys with everyday tools, so it’s not the kind of thing that intelligence services can prevent; the guys look ordinary; there’s no way to prevent their “message” from spreading; responses have changed…
Governments have become better at calibrating their response to these acts and so has the public. After Boston and Woolwich, for example, they were careful not to leap to conclusions or to issue responses of the “War on Terror” kind that would have inflamed communal tensions.
There are still some who are defaulting to stereotypical responses to such situations, and certainly in Boston after the marathon bombings, I witnessed a small quantum of media-fanned hysteria, but in general people have become better at accepting that such incidents are a melancholy part of modern life and should not alter their view of other cultures or religions.
Excuse me. That last item is one thought too many. It’s pretty typical BBC bullshittery in its careful vagueness, but given our knowledge of typical BBC bullshittery, we can be pretty sure we know what it means: don’t think of the Woolwich attack as anything to do with Islam. If that is the thought, it’s one thought too many. It is anythiing to do with Islam. If it were Catholic fanatics doing this kind of thing, that would be anything to do with Catholicism. When anti-abortion fanatics murder doctors who provide abortions, that is anything to do with anti-abortion fanaticism, and sometimes with a particular religion that underpins or prompts the anti-abortion fanaticism. This incident on a London street is anything to do with Islam. The murderers said so themselves. Yes, other people follow a better Islam (one that ignores much of its own “scripture”); yes it’s theoretically possible to have a better Islam; but no, it is not the case that this murder has no implications for how people should view Islam.