Thursday 19 December 2013

Under the shadow of Iraq

As the barristers in the trial of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale prepare for sentencing, the full story behind this gruesome killing is still emerging. There can be no doubt that this is a case that will shock all decent people living in Britain. My main reaction however is one of confusion, confusion mainly about how two people could have concluded that murdering an innocent person would bring justice to those killed in Iraq.

The guilt of both defendants was never in doubt, yet what is less clear is how we should deal with people who have become fanatic followers of a religion. In a way, religious fanaticism has been with us for centuries, and blinding, at times murderous, loyalty to Christianity, Judaism or Islam has continuously challenged our belief in humanity. Yet, it seems to me that this is not just a question of religion.

There remains the nagging thought in the back of my head that the radicalisation of Adebolajo may not have happened without the disastrous adventure of Iraq which cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And it is not just that. When the Iraq war devastated lives, many didn't act and felt powerless. In a sense, Adebolajo was determined not to remain powerless, but ultimately only became a pawn in a larger game.

During the trial and in his police interviews, Adebowale instinctively put his finger on the nub of the problem when he tried to claim for himself the status of a combatant, a fighter for justice. If you wear a uniform and follow the misguided orders of deluded politicians, you are a hero. If you do not wear a uniform, any retaliation for the suffering we have caused in other countries is murder, plain and simple. As long as the balance of recognition for a just cause is so heavily weighted in favour of 'legitimate force', some may try to take justice into their own hands whilst creating only more sorrow and pain.

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