The attack in London, which led to four being killed, by a single attacker, showed up a peculiarly British problem. The attacker showed that Islam can now be the vehicle for expressing rage, and how rage is the natural response among those Britons who form the underclass.
In a certain respect, the attack by Khalid Masood, who was born Adrian Russel Elms, but who converted to Islam, was outside the debate of being legitimate or not. It is generally trotted out whenever such an outrage occurs that Islam is a religion of peace. However, the attacker by then has carried out the attack, and has killed or injured his attackers. Khalid Masood may sound a Pakistani name, but this should not disguise the fact that Elms was a convert. He belonged to another racial minority in the UK, and one with an equal record of being oppressed, the West Indian. However, unlike Pakistanis, West Indians have not been labelled as difficult to adopt ‘British values’, and have cultural affinities which make them relatively amenable to absorption.
However, there is another thing about them that exposes the real basis of Western Islamophobia: they belong to a different race, being black. There are streams of black emigrants to the UK from Nigeria, Ghana and Somalia, but they also have their own culture. However, West Indians are the products of slavery and the slave trade, who were stripped clean of their original culture, and only allowed scraps of Western culture afterwards. However, when they went to the UK after World War II, when Europe called on their colonies to send them hordes to do their semi-skilled and unskilled labour, West Indian migrants would have fitted in better than others.
It is perhaps not realised enough that the UK is the only country with non-Muslim minorities, Hindus from India, Buddhists from Sri Lanka and Christians from the West Indies and Africa. France has got Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, Italy Libyans, Spain Moroccans, the Netherlands Indonesians–all former colonies; Germany- Turks. Turkey was never been a German colony, but the two countries have had close relations dating back to the 19th century. Of course, just as Pakistanis have reached all over Europe, all countries have got Hindus and black Christians in them, but they are not significant enough to create a problem.
A racial hatred of Muslims can be disguised as a cultural distaste, but where does that leave West Indians? They are doubly deprived, for they were not only colonial subjects, but had a slave heritage. They were economic migrants originally, but generations born in the UK wanted to integrate. The culture they had brought from the islands was a Western one, and they would have made a neat fit. Only they were blacks, thereby provoking the racist urges of the native British population. Even African Christians could be seen as culturally different, but West Indians were disliked only because of their race.
However, there was also Islamophobia. The whole of Europe had minorities, though only the UK had large non-Muslim minorities. The economic downturn of the last decade has made it possible to appeal to working-class natives who have either lost their jobs, or are struggling to hold on to the ones they have. The ‘other’ is a good target: economic problems are never the fault of the capitalist system, or of the individual’s own shortcomings, but of the ‘other’. What is happening to Muslims now is similar to what happened to Jews in Hitler’s Germany especially, and throughout Europe generally.
However, West Indians in the UK do not look to the Jews as exemplifying how they are treated, but see affinities with blacks in the USA. One reason is that West Indians in their homelands are closer to the USA than the UK, and are greatly influenced by the experience of blacks there. It should not be forgotten that the USA was created by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who owned slaves, and who were often viscerally committed to suppressing blacks. The British come from the same stock of oppressors, and their attitudes have alienated West Indians.
Elms thus demonstrated a nightmare scenario for the UK: West Indian blacks wishing to protest their oppression so badly that they would convert to Islam. This would be a deadly combination for British society, and had been foreshadowed in the Black Muslim movement of the 1960s, However, the Black Muslims did not find as much traction among West Indian blacks as it did among American, and West Indians have tended to convert to more mainstream sects, as Elms did.
It might also be noticed that Khalid Masood combined low-tech weapons used separately before, but separately those weapons had been used repeatedly. He first ran over people in a vehicle, bringing to memory, among others, the Nice attack last July in which 86 people were killed when a militant drove a 19-tonne truck through a Bastille Day crowd. Then he stabbed a policeman outside Parliament, as had been done before in the UK, ironically when a black soldier was stabbed.
There has been a cacophony about why he was not targeted even though he showed signs of radicalisation. However, two things have not been considered. First, if he had been detected, how was he to have been stopped, especially when he was using a vehicle that was in order, and a domestic implement? The only way possible would have been to trample his civil liberties. Some argue that should be done, according to the precept of ‘doing what it takes’, but then, what kind of British values are protected by such a violation?
Apart from that theoretical obstacle, there is the practical difficulty of monitoring the use of vehicles and domestic instruments. That amounts, as in various travel restrictions since 9/11 in 2001, to irksome restrictions for many blameless citizens, throwing sand into the works of Western civilisation, and thus fulfilling the very purpose of the militants.
Second, going back a little further, what exactly are those British values? And what if the benefits of those values are supposed to go to an elite, and are to be denied an underclass to which he belonged? In short, why does someone like Elms become a violent criminal? He was clearly not inherently evil, which is the racist’s kneejerk response, otherwise he wouldn’t have converted, the sign of a questing soul, of someone trying to rise above his circumstances. There has been much ink spilled on the need to provide Muslims opportunities, to prevent their criminalisation and then radicalisation; not enough on the need to provide a truly level playing-field.
Providing a truly level playing-field would upset the applecart. It would involve ending viewing society as meant to provide opportunities for one section, and condemning others to membership of an underclass. It is in this respect that the UK falls short. British values now appears to be nothing beyond the Enlightenment project, and it is that project which has led to the type of West Indian who turns to militancy in the UK. There may be greater stringency in the UK, and the anti-militancy net might be cast wider, but this will stop the West itself from throwing up militants.
A racial hatred of Muslims can be disguised as a cultural distaste, but where does that leave West Indians? They are doubly deprived, for they were not only colonial subjects, but had a slave heritage.