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The Woolwich Attacks Need to Bring Us Together

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The stabbings in Woolwich have shocked Britain. The targeting of a British soldier, who'd survived a tour in Afghanistan, on a London street in broad daylight seemed unreal. The brazen way the attackers asked the witnesses to film them, explaining their motivations as revenge for the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, demonstrated the fact that they wanted this to be seen: it was not an anonymous attack. They wanted the media and the British public to know exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. The response from some members of the public was instant: the EDL held a demonstration which ended in violent clashes with the police while two further men have been arrested in connection to attacks on mosques in Kent and Essex respectively. The identification of one of the attackers as Michael Adebolajo, a man from Britain who converted to Islam, will I fear only provoke further anti-Islamic feeling.

My immediate reaction when hearing of the EDL's demonstration was to question their logic. In order to 'defend Britain' they decided to attack our police force. The people who are responsible for protecting our country by upholding law and order and who will be working ceaselessly to investigate the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. There were also those who took to social media sites stating that the attackers should go back to where they came from. Michael Adebolajo was born in Lambeth and grew up in Romford. Where is it exactly is he being sent back to?

And as for those who are using this as an opportunity to rant about Islam they need to understand one thing: the actions of a few do not define the majority. The Muslim Council of Britain has stated that this 'barbaric act' has 'no basis in Islam'. This is no more an act condoned by every Muslim in Britain as those Christians who attack abortion clinics reflect the views of every Christian: both are actions of a minority. The men that attacked Rigby claimed to be doing so in retaliation for the killing of Muslims by the Armed Forces in overseas operations. Maajid Nawaz made the interesting point that they seemed to be showing more sympathy for the population of countries they have most likely never visited than for the citizens of their own country. It does make me wonder what they hoped to achieve through this attack: did they simply want to divide the community? Was their aim to ignite tensions between differing sections of British society, to drive a wedge between them?

The response of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and community and faith leaders has seemingly shown that this has not worked. The message that they are giving, loud and clear, is that this is a betrayal of both Britain and Islam and we as a community should use it as an opportunity to unite. If we exploit the attacks and use them to express hatred towards others, are we not just allowing the attackers to win? It is sad that it takes an incident as horrific as this to bring us together but it is a chance that we cannot afford to miss. Dialogue between all members of our society is the only way that we can prevent attacks like this from happening again.

We cannot as a society judge an entire, valuable part of our culture and community by the actions of a few. If you have a house and aspects of it are threatening the structural integrity of the whole, do you knock down the entire house? No, you attempt to repair or remove the dangerous elements. Britain is like that. We are a multicultural society made up of so many different and wonderful elements: it's one of the things I love about this country. It was highlighted so beautifully during the Olympics. The attack in Woolwich should be seen as what it is: a horrifically violent attack. It shouldn't be used as an excuse to generate more hatred. I have been disgusted by people who are solely condemning the perpetrators and not the act itself. Regardless of where a person is from or what faith they follow, any act of violence such as this should be condemned, purely for what it is. And those who react with hatred are just fueling the very act they are claiming to be fighting against. As Gandhi said: 'An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind'.