By Qari Asim MBE
Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque Leeds
When the vile murderer of Jo Cox MP, Thomas Mair, was asked about his name in the Westminster magistrates court on 18th June, he chillingly replied with, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” This murder epitomizes the toxic ultra-nationalist far right sentiments that are on the rise. Muslims have been the target of this hatred for quite some time now.
The terrorist implies that the wonderful, dynamic and caring Jo Cox MP was a “traitor”, which is both upsetting and deeply offensive. I knew Jo Cox to be an inspiring public servant, selfless humanitarian and fearless campaigner. She had travelled the world for her dedicated aid work and seen the suffering of vulnerable communities in numerous countries. She championed the cause of those helpless and disenfranchised and stood for compassion, dignity and human rights.
This extremist had his house covered in Nazi regalia. He spent $620 on Far right material from US including ‘how to make a pistol’. There are even pictures of him at a Britain First rally. He is reported to have shouted “Britain First” as he attacked Jo – shooting, stabbing and kicking an individual who represented the people of this country. His attack on Jo Cox was an attack on all of us.
Despite all of these factors, sections of the media still refuse to call this tragic incident what it was – an act of terrorism. They have called him a lone wolf and mentally unstable but have shied away from calling the horrific murderer a “home-grown” terrorist who was inspired by neo-Nazi far right ideology. Imagine if a vile lunatic had cried “Allah-u-Akbar” at the time of committing such an atrocity. Ask yourself, how would parts of media and some politicians have reacted? How would the whole of the Muslim community been treated? Britain has been home to fascist groups for decades. We need to recognise the threat that they pose to our society and challenge it robustly and indiscriminately under the law.
There is a need to fully recognise far right extremism and terrorism, and challenge it both socially and legally. This is not the first time that an individual who has extreme far-right tendencies has murdered an innocent person in our country. A neo-Nazi extremist murdered Mohammed Saleem in 2013 in Birmingham and in 2015 Mohsin Khan was attacked in Rotherham which resulted in his death. These extremists have attacked mosques around the country and have even planted bombs in mosques. Thomas Mair belongs to a horrific tradition of the murderous far-Right that includes Anders Breivik and Timothy McVeigh.
Unless we treat all acts of terrorism and extremism, hatred and bigotry in the same way and strive for a culture of respect for all, the question of bias towards one community and the targeting of that community will continue to be asked. Such cherry-picking approach will not eliminate extremism and intolerance from our society; it will continue to reinforce a “them-v-us” narrative and breed more hatred. It will continue to inspire extremists on both sides. Anyone – irrespective of faith, colour or creed- threatening our community cohesion, multi-belief, multi-cultural society must be brought to justice.
Jo’s legacy must inspire us all to stand together against all forms of prejudice, bigotry and extremism. It is intolerance and hatred that has killed Jo Cox. Let not one more life be lost to hatred towards the “other”. May Jo’s open-mindedness, thoughtfulness and embracing of the “stranger” be a call for our awakening, our hope and light to make our neighborhoods and world a better place. We continue to keep Jo’s family and friends in our thoughts, especially her two young children.