THE BLOG
30/10/2013 13:55 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Is Pavlo Lapshyn a Terrorist? Not According To Most Media

Pavlo Lapshyn committed acts of terror and carried out 'terror offences'. He is cold, calculating and extremely dangerous. Yet, according to most media, he is not a terrorist.

Outside of the Times and Daily Star, few used the word terrorist in their headlines. Oddly, some even took the opportunity to attack migrants as the Express ran the headline: "Life sentence for migrant student who brutally murdered Muslim to start a race war." It implies that such an ideology could only be of 'foreign' origin, which is simply untrue.

Thanks to the judge's sentencing remarks, we are able to learn more about his motivations. Lapshyn's reign of terror began with a bus journey to an area of Birmingham he believed was predominately Muslim. Armed with a hunting knife he purchased two or three days after arriving, he targeted Mohammed Saleem because he was alone and wore traditional Islamic dress. Weeks later, he created an image of a knife that mocked his death with the slogan 'white power'.

His subsequent bombs punctuated governmental silence and the COBRA meetings they left too late. The police had originally dismissed the possibility of terrorism when the first bomb detonated near Aisha Mosque on June 21. It was only labelled terrorism after the Tipton nail bomb on July 12. Moreover, Lapshyn believed it was an ideal location as "there was little risk of white people suffering."

With the conclusion of the trial, we learn that Lapshyn used a mobile phone to research two other mosques. A search of his bedroom produced partially adapted mobile phones and ingredients for further bombs (but none were modified or ready to use).

The label of 'terrorist' brings an expectation of condemnation from the perpetrator's community. A reassurance that moderate voices will prevail. However, in recent years, that expectation only falls upon Muslims. Thankfully, no Ukrainian has been demonised or community held collectively responsible, but the hypocrisy remains self-evident.

It is further proof that terrorism is an empty term, a label reflexively applied when the perpetrator has a specific religious identity. As a result, supporters of the English Defence League can continue to claim, "That all the terrorists at the moment are Muslim," which is another falsehood.

Until we stop dehumanising Muslims to feed the illusion of our own moral and cultural superiority, we will not learn from this tragedy. Nor will we reflect on our own capacity for terror on those we oppose. Nobody has the monopoly on terrorism. It has no nationality or religious faith, it crosses borders and cultures.

Yet, like any fundamentalist, Lapshyn's utopian vision was built on the aggressive removal of the 'Other'. He hoped his campaign would cause Muslims to 'leave' a section of Birmingham. In isolation, that idea is closer to the mainstream than many admit.

How many 'concerned' citizens would feel more comfortable with fewer Muslims (and other minorities) in their city? Put simply, Pavlo Lapshyn is the extremely violent footnote to decades of state racism and Islamophobia, which should terrify us all.