The government’s silence over attacks on Muslims is worrying, and divisive

Nesrine Malik exposes the government’s double standards over terrorist attacks in the UK. She writes:

Last week, a nail bomb partially exploded at a mosque in the West Midlands – the fourth attack in two months on mosques in Britain during Friday prayers. A suspect in one of those attacks is also being questioned in connection with the killing of Mohammed Saleem, a Muslim pensioner in Birmingham, who was stabbed to death as he returned home from prayers. The police response to these attacks has been heartening, but the silence from government, and the establishment in general, has been deeply worrisome.

When Lee Rigby was murdered, politicians of every stripe scrambled to condemn and reassure. Cobra, the country’s top emergency response mechanism, was convened under the home secretary, Theresa May. David Cameron reassured Britons that “we will never buckle in the face of terrorism”. Compare this with near-silence that greeted the recent mosque attacks. Muslims have become accustomed, almost resigned, to media double standards – there is no example starker than the wildly different coverage of Rigby and Saleem’s killings. But the failure to mobilise, condemn and reassure on the part of the political class is potentially far more dangerous.

The significant (and some would say disproportionate) political and intelligence engagement in the wake of the Rigby murder wasn’t entirely for practical purposes. Strong rhetoric combined with a show of force is a necessary response on behalf of a government in order to calm and instil a sense of safety in its citizens. The same sense of duty and urgency when British Muslims come under fire has not been in evidence.

Comment is Free, 22 July 2013

To be fair, home secretary Theresa May has not been entirely silent on the recent wave of anti-Muslim incidents. Back on 10 June she was reported as deploring the attacks, and she has just issued a short statement on the murder of Mohammed Saleem. However, as Nesrine Malik observes, this falls well short of the concern expressed by the government (and Theresa May herself) over the Lee Rigby murder.

Last Friday an entire article denouncing violence against British Muslims appeared in May’s name … in the Pakistani newspaper The News. The home secretary hasn’t yet seen fit to publish a similarly hard-hitting piece in any British newspaper. The government is apparently more concerned about its image abroad than with expressing solidarity with the Muslim community in the UK.