Statement on the Westminster Murders

Statement on behalf of SACC by Richard Haley (Chair) in response to the murders outside the Westminster Parliament on Wednesday 22 March

Following the murderous rampage at Westminster on Wednesday, our thoughts are firstly with the victims, their families and friends and with others immediately affected. Some of the injured are said to be in a critical condition, and we wish them a speedy recovery.

Our thoughts are also with all those at risk of the racist abuse and violence that often follows events of this sort, and with innocent individuals who may be at risk of police attention for their political views.

The attack bears obvious similarities to attacks apparently inspired by ISIS elsewhere in Europe, including an apparent attempt to drive into pedestrians today in Antwerp. However, nothing in the information available so far seems to point to the involvement of anyone else in the Westminster attack besides the man named by police as Khalid Massood. A statement by ISIS that the attacker was their "soldier" appears to be just an attempt to retrospectively co-opt his actions to their cause. The attack might perhaps be more appropriately described as politically-linked hate crime than as terrorism.

Media coverage has been a depressing mixture of frenzy, opportunism and self-congratulatory claims of calm. The most destructive media intervention so far has come not from the usual racism-mongers, but from Channel 4. Yesterday they falsely named the attacker as Abu Izzadeen, only to retract the claim shortly afterward. Abu Izzadeen is currently in jail for attempting to leave the UK in January 2016 in breach of special conditions imposed on him following his conviction and imprisonment under terrorism legislation for speech crime. 

Channel 4 say that Abu Izzadeen was named as the attacker by an unnamed but trusted source. It is impossible to understand how there could be any justification for naming a man as a murderer on the basis of an unverified claim from an unnamed source, however trusted. If the source was a police or MI5 officer the episode would raise very serious concerns indeed. Whoever the source was, Channel 4's decision to broadcast the name was unacceptable and potentially inflammatory. The most generous thing that can be said about it is that it was reckless.

It is unwise to draw wide conclusions from the actions of a single individual. But it should be obvious that the conditions that produce crimes of this sort have been created by Britain's involvement since 2001 in a series of brutal wars in pursuit of imperialist goals, coupled with discriminatory and repressive laws and policing policies designed to weaken domestic opposition to war. The psycho-social damage caused by all this is visible to anyone with eyes to see, even though violence linked to it remains rare. Further repression will increase the damage. Responses built around the current fad for invoking supposed British sang-froid will not heal the wounds caused by Britain's global crimes or ease the pain of discrimination.

Reports today that over 200 civilians have been killed in a single US-led bombing raid on Mosul should illustrate the crassness of this approach.

It is very much to be hoped that Government will not exploit the Westminster murders to escalate or justify its disastrous 'Prevent' counter-terrorism strategy or to help it railroad new kinds of repression through Parliament.