An Islamist Beheading In Britain

Below are our posts covering and responding to the terrorist attack on a British soldier in Woolwich, England. To skip the latest two posts in this thread, published on Tuesday May 28th, click here.

May 22, 2013 @ 3:57pm

It was in broad daylight – by two men who attacked a British soldier near his barracks. An eye-witness account:

“We saw clearly two knives, meat cleavers, they were big kitchen knives like you would use in a butcher’s, they were hacking at this poor guy, we thought they were trying to remove organs from him. These two guys were crazed, they were not there, they were just animals. They then dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road. They took 20 minutes to arrive, the police – the armed response.”

There were cries of “Allahu Akbar” as the horrifying attack took place. The murderers seemed from initial accounts to be proud of what thay had done and hung around the corpse, until the police arrived and both assailants were shot. The above video is of a British man declaring Jihad against his own country. He is bragging of the beheading. He is a barbarian. Let me quote the Pope again:

To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.

May 22, 2013 @ 4:42pm


A reader writes:

Today’s atrocity will remind people everywhere what we are up against. Past revolutionary groups killed hostages, planted bombs and committed all manner of violent mayhem to try and destabilize the societies they hated. But Islamic fundamentalist terrorists have been different since they announced themselves on the world stage decades ago. They also take hostages and plant bombs. But they bring to their work a suicidal commitment and a depravity Westerners simply cannot fathom. Every time there is a horror like this we have to learn it all over again. We have to think  “oh, right…I forgot…they are monsters among us.”

The significance of today is that people like this, monsters like this, will never stop and will use any tool that comes to hand. For many this will mean “conventional” attacks with low body counts. For others it will mean designing spectacular events that may take years to come to fruition. So our choice is not simply to come terms with terrorism as a cost of doing business. X number of bombs and deaths a year is a normal part of modern life that only unmanly hysterics bother to get upset about. This is something we have never actually experienced in the civilized world.

Also of interest today is the story regarding the friend of Tsarnaev shot by the FBI. It looks likely that in addition to the bombing they slit the throat of some Jewish kids on another 9/11 anniversary. Monsters.

May 22, 2013 @ 8:52pm

“He Said It Was A War”

I’m feeling things today in the wake of this act of religious barbarism on the streets of London that I haven’t felt for a while. The monster who paraded around on the street after hacking a soldier to pieces is chilling in many ways. But everything points to a religious act of terror, motivated by the same Jihadist rage that captured the Tsarnaev brothers. For these men, “our land” is not Britain; it is the land of Islam in their minds. Here’s the full quote of the Jihadist:

We swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. The only reason we have killed this man this is because Muslims are dying daily. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth … We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.

This eye-witness account shows that even in the midst of this Islamist barbarism, some shred of humanity remained:

“I saw a guy with no head lying on the ground. He had been decapitated. There were two black guys walking around his body saying ‘This is what God would’ve wanted’. My friend and her mum were walking up the hill and the mum came straight to the victim. She asked the black guys ‘can I help him?’ And one of them said he was already dead but she could go. Then one of them said ‘No man is coming near this body, only women’. She was so brave, she didn’t care what happened to her – she knelt down by his side and comforted him. She held his hand and put her other hand on his chest. I think she might have been praying.”

There is no formal confirmation that the victim, who was run over on the sidewalk by the Islamists’ car, was actually a soldier, but he was wearing a t-shirt that referred to a charity for veterans, and was near a barracks. Mercifully, the response from the Muslim community in London has been unequivocal:

This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the armed forces. Muslims have long served in this country’s armed forces, proudly and with honour. This attack on a member of the armed forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.

A girl scout leader, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, was on the scene and managed to talk to the butchers as they hung around, bragging for the cameras, their hands dripping with blood:

I spoke to him for more than five minutes. I asked him why he had done what he had done. He said he had killed the man because he [the victim] was a British soldier who killed Muslim women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was furious about the British army being over there.

There was blood on the pavement by the car where the man on the ground had been hit by it. At first there was no blood by the body but as I talked to the man it began to flow which worried me because blood needs a beating heart to flow. But I didn’t want to annoy the man by going back to the body.

I asked him what he was going to do next because the police were going to arrive soon. He said it was a war and if the police were coming, he was going to kill them. I asked him if that was a reasonable thing to do but it was clear that he really wanted to do that. He talked about war but he did not talk about dying and then he left to speak to someone else.

Two things are true here. The first is that this was a religious sacrificial murder, authorized by God in the eyes of the killers. The second is that this is clearly motivated by blowback from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first is indefensible on any grounds. The second is a reminder that in the war against this religious barbarism, occupying Muslim countries is not an answer.

May 23, 2013 @ 11:20am

An Islamist Beheading In Britain, Ctd

Investigations Continue Into The Brutal Street Killing Of A British Soldier

A reader balances this reader’s rage:

I am a Muslim and I was never taught that violence is acceptable. I went to a mosque to study Quran between the ages of 7 and 9. All I know about Islam is to forgive, be patient, love your family, friends, neighbor and be good to people. What the pope says is awesome and most Muslims I know are following just that. The prophet taught humility, forgiveness and love. He forgave people who treated him badly and forgave people who killed his family members. There are a lot of “mullahs” who preach jihad (which doesn’t necessary mean kill the infidel, more like that struggle for the better society with your words, your pen and deeds). The violence that is perpetuated is wrong and is not true to the core of Islam.

It seems Islam is going through its Dark Ages, where lack of education and a confusion of tradition with religion in Muslim countries is causing their people to be manipulated by false sermons of violence against the West as some good deed when it’s a sin and a sin alone. All I know about Islam is that killing a human being is as if killing the whole humanity. The mindless menace of violence has a grip over the Muslim world right now and hopefully with a better-educated younger generation, where people like me can disagree, will help improve this problem. Killing in the name of “the most merciful and benevolent” God (Allah) is not true. The merciful god in Quran says that no human has a right to take another’s life as it is not his to take, even his own. Muslims aren’t even allowed to commit suicide. Combining that with killing innocent people is beyond my capacity to understand.

Islam is not a monolith. Westboro Baptist Church does not represent every Christian. These people who killed an innocent person in Bahrain are no Muslims; they are Muslims in name and have committed a grave sin against their fellow human being and god.


A reader wrote, “X number of bombs and deaths a year is a normal part of modern life that only unmanly hysterics bother to get upset about. This is something we have never actually experienced in the civilized world.” This is simply not true.  This reader acknowledges that “[p]ast revolutionary groups killed hostages, planted bombs and committed all manner of violent mayhem to try and destabilize the societies they hated.”  There have been bombings and killings going on in the United States – even suicide bombings – throughout the history of this country and unrelated to Islamism.  The killing in London is a terrible tragedy, but so is this one, and this one, and this one, and these two, and all the rest of these.

Those lefty Muslim apologists at Townhall have listed the 10 worst bombings in U.S. history.  Only one of them (1993 WTC bomb, coming in at #10) was committed by Islamists (another remains unsolved). If violent radical Islam magically ceased to exist today, there would still be “X number of bombs and deaths a year.”  That’s not to say that Islamist terror is somehow excusable, just that your reader may in fact be a “hysteric” on the subject.

(Photo: Flowers lay outside Woolwich Barracks on May 23, 2013 in London, England. By Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.)

May 23, 2013 @ 12:20pm

Meat-Cleaving Terror

Anthony Lane focuses on the weapons used in Woolwich:

There is a particular horror associated with low-grade or homemade violence of this kind. The bombs used in the attack on the Boston Marathon were, as has become clear, frighteningly easy to construct; but there remains something hideous about the use of weapons that are, to other people, barely weapons at all, but household or kitchen implements. That was true of the box-cutters used by the hijackers on 9/11, and it is no less true, though of course on a far smaller scale, of the blades employed [yesterday].

He continues:

Cheap weaponry is also likely to cause concern to the security services; you can track the purchase and handling of explosives, but how on earth do you prevent someone from buying a few steak knives at a hardware store or a supermarket? Why should such a purchase even come to your attention?

The ordinariness and randomness of the act – requiring no gun or bomb – is what makes its terror so powerful. But it also, it seems to me, backfires massively against the perpetrators. The barbarism of hacking a human being’s body to pieces in the middle of the street cannot possibly win any converts to the cause, and will not prompt stoic Brits to see the world from the Pakistani Islamist’s point of view.

It’s nihilism. Which will, in due course, annihilate itself – as it has done even in largely Muslim countries like Iraq and Jordan, which saw al Qaeda up close and rightly recoiled. We should not feel fear of these lunatics. We should feel a form of baffled contempt. This is a form of human behavior that belongs in the dark ages.

May 23, 2013 @ 9:16pm

When Jihadists Attack

Here’s a just-released but gripping video showing one of the Woolwich religious maniacs rushing pell-pell toward the police as if he were on PCP or something. There was something truly unhinged about this disturbing incident.

May 24, 2013 @ 3:58pm

An Islamist Beheading In Britain, Ctd


Greenwald refuses to label the beheading in London “terrorism,” calling it just another attempt to stir paranoia against Muslims:

[T]he term at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states …

I really have to try restrain my anger here. First off, Glenn’s adoption of the view that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amounted to “continuous violence by western states against Muslim civilians” seems a new step toward the memes of Islamist propaganda. Does Glenn really believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, however flawed, were deliberate attempts to kill Muslim civilians, in the way al Qaeda deliberately targets and kills Muslim civilians?

If he does, then I beg to differ. The reason we invaded Afghanistan was not because we decided to launch a war on Islam. It was because wealthy, Islamist, hypocritical bigots launched an unprovoked Jihadist mass murder of Western innocents from a cell based in a country run by a regime that specialized and specializes in the mass murder of other Muslims.

Before 9/11, America had saved Muslims in the Balkans from Christianist fanatics. We helped liberate Muslims in Afghanistan from Soviet oppression. We continue to give vast amounts of money to Muslim countries like Egypt, and, because of our economic development and need for oil made multi-billionaires out of Saudi clerics. And the war against Saddam, though a criminal enterprise and strategic catastrophe, nonetheless removed one of the most vicious mass murderers of Muslims on the planet. And the sectarian murder of Muslims that followed, however the ultimate responsibility for the occupying forces, was not done by Westerners. It was done by Muslims killing Muslims. The West, moreover, is committed to removing its troops from Afghanistan by next year and is fast winding down drone strikes.

How can that legitimize a British citizen’s brutal beheading of a fellow British citizen on the streets of London? If we cannot call a man who does that in the name of God and finishes by warning his fellow citizens “You will never be safe” a terrorist, who would fit that description, apart, of course, in Glenn’s view, Barack Obama?

The barbarian with the machete was not born in a Muslim country or land. He was born in Britain, educated at Marshalls Park school in Romford and Greenwich University.

He does not have a history of concern with foreign policy – or even sensitivity toward the mass murder of Muslims. There is no record of his protest against the mass murders by the Taliban – because those kinds of murders of Muslims he approves of. He is a convert to the Sunni Islamism of Anjem Choudary, whose street thugs were involved in a melee in a London street only last week as they attacked and scuffled with Shi’a Muslims. Choudary’s group wants Sharia law imposed on the UK, a war against Shiites everywhere, the brutal subjugation of women, and suppression of every freedom Glenn cares about. The idea that this foul, religious bigotry – when it provokes its adherents to the kind of barbarism we saw two days ago – is some kind of legitimate protest against a fast-ending war is just perverse.

I want the war in Af-Pak to end. I agree that blowback is a real problem. I was horrified by the Iraq war. I remain appalled by GTMO and the legacy of torture. But I cannot defend any analysis of what happened in London as some kind of legitimate protest against Western foreign policy rather than terrorism in its most animal-like form, created and sustained entirely by religious fanaticism which would find any excuse to murder, destroy and oppress Muslims and non-Muslims in the name of God.

They did this before 9/11 and before our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They are doing it now in Syria in the name of the same God. These genocidal theocrats did not need to be spurred by the US and UK’s actions – although they can view those as a further inflammation. They are living out their twisted, foul faith – which requires them not merely to kill, but to hack and mutilate and dismember another human being and celebrate that fact with a glee and a pride that has absolutely nothing to do with foreign policy and everything to do with the evil lurking in the totalitarian’s soul.

I have to say I have always respected the sincerity and clarity of Greenwald’s critique of the war on terror. But his blindness to the savagery at the heart of Salafism is very hard to understand, let alone forgive.

May 24, 2013 @ 6:06pm

Faces Of The Day

Investigations Continue Into The Brutal Street Killing Of A British Soldier

The mother and stepfather of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, Lyn and Ian Rigby, and Lee’s wife Rebecca Rigby, grieve as Ian reads a family statement, at the Regimental HQ of his unit, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers on May 24, 2013 in Bury, Greater Manchester, England. Drummer Rigby was murdered by suspected Islamists near to his regiment’s Woolwich Army Barracks. The UK’s security services are facing a Commons inquiry after confirmation that the two men – who were shot and arrested at the scene and remain in police custody – were known to MI5. By Dave Thompson/WPA Pool/Getty Images.

May 28, 2013 @ 1:19pm

An Islamist Beheading In Britain, Ctd


Greenwald responds to my latest post. He protests:

That I “legitimated” the London attack or argued it was a “legitimate protest” is as obvious a fabrication as it gets. Not only did I argue no such thing, and not only did I say the exact opposite of what Sullivan and others falsely attribute to me, but I expressly repudiated – in advance – the very claims they try to impose on me. Even vociferous critics of what I wrote, writing in neocon venues, understood this point (“I do find myself wanting to agree with Greenwald in arguing that this is an atrocious murder rather than an act of terror”).

I don’t fabricate things. Look at this direct quote:

“[T]he term [terrorism] at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states.”

Here’s my objection: the West kills “Muslims”; the Jihadists target “states.” That framing, in the direct wake of an act of religious barbarism, actually places Jihadists on a higher moral plane than the West. We’re killing people of a different faith on purpose; they’re just protesting by killing the soldiers who murder them. Maybe Glenn didn’t mean for it to come out that way. But it did.

And yes, I can see (just) how an off-duty soldier might qualify as a non-civilian, although we don’t yet fully know the details of the plot, and therefore complicate the “terror” label. That’s a point worth considering. I also conceded that a defense of the killing as blowback was involved here. So we’re not that far apart on those matters.

But I strongly resist the idea that the West has attempted to kill Muslims in the way that Jihadists have killed so many Muslims and infidels, even though civilian casualties have been a horrifying fact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the drone wars now winding down. We are seeking to defend ourselves from theocratic mass murderers after an unprovoked attack; they are seeking the triumph of their version of Islam, by any means, including mass murder. The US has not killed for religious reasons; the Jihadists kill solely for religious reasons, which include the sacrosanct nature of religiously-demarcated territory. That includes the Woolwich beheading, as the full context shows. The Jihadist was not defending the “land” he lives in. He is a British-born convert to a murderous form of Sunni Islam (which detests and seeks to murder Shiite infidels as much as any non-Muslims). He is, in fact, attacking his own land, its soldiers and its democratic norms. He wants to turn Britain into a Sharia-Islamist state. And he’s not shy about saying so. That equation of his land with, say, Pakistan, is a religious belief, not an objective fact.

Then there are the fabrications from Glenn. I “continuously justify any manner of violence and militarism” by the US. That accusation is just bizarre, given my record over the last several years, my support for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, my opposition to new wars in Libya and Syria, my long campaign against torture, and on and on. But, yes, I do believe we are in a civilizational war, as I wrote just after 9/11.

It is a war between violent Jihadist theocracy and the Western tradition of separation between church and state. It is a war we did not seek and it is a war we are trying to end. For the Islamists, in contrast, this war is for ever – until their version of theocracy is triumphant. And the butchers of Woolwich are quite clear about their goals: the imposition of Sharia law and the end of democracy in Britain, their actual native land. For them to assume other countries as “their land” is an obvious sign that what lies behind this is not strategic blowback only – it is a theology of theocracy.

Norm Geras is not as blinkered:

[I]f a man says that he’s butchered someone on the street because of… Afghanistan, it is then true, if he is not lying or self-deceived, that somewhere in the causal chain leading up to that murderous act Western intervention against Al-Qaida and the Taliban has played some part in bringing the atrocity about. But it is by no means a sufficient explanation, as you can quickly ascertain by starting to count up in your head all those angered or upset about Western intervention who haven’t butchered anybody. At the same time, you can start to compute how many people responsible for jihadist terrorism today not only cite Afghanistan and/or Iraq but frame the reference within the terms of an Islamist ideology according to which the slaughter of innocents is an apt response to Western foreign policy. That’s a very large number of people. It is also true, of course, that not all Islamists commit terrorist murder, so this isn’t a complete explanation either, but you’d think the ideological factor should have some prominence.

A rational explanation of these acts is therefore available that places central emphasis on its ideological causes, and doesn’t just parrot what the jihadists themselves say. And those leftists and liberals (verkrappt section) who always draw attention towards what the killers say and away from the belief system that inspires them are not just appealing to rational explanation, they are offering a very particular type of skewed ‘explanation’ that obscures a crucial element of the picture.

I think Glenn has gone from a completely legitimate critique of the West’s “war on terror” toward the equation of Jihadist murder with legitimate self-defense after 9/11. I can see why the latter can spawn the former. I cannot see how they are both morally equivalent.

May 28, 2013 @ 1:58pm

Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

How do you square your disdain for hate crime laws as a way to punish one motivation more than another for the same horrendous act, with your wont to decry murders by Muslims as a sign of a larger idea of “terrorism,” which you evidently give more significance that just regular crime? It seems it would be more consistent to treat the killing in Woolwich the same as this knife murder last October in Swanley Village. Does the different motivation deserve different punishment? Saying one is “terror” – a heavy term in our new unfortunate parlance that justified our current wars – and one is “not terror” does not make sense if you think elevating one motive over another is wrong. You wrote this in the NYT back in 1999:

Indeed, our media’s obsession with “hate,” our elevation of it above other social misdemeanors and crimes, may even play into the hands of the pathetic and the evil, may breathe air into the smoldering embers of their paranoid loathing. Sure, we can help create a climate in which such hate is disapproved of — and we should. But there is a danger that if we go too far, if we punish it too much, if we try to abolish it altogether, we may merely increase its mystique, and entrench the very categories of human difference that we are trying to erase.

I think you may reason the same way with regard to terrorism, given your positions on Gitmo and the Af-Pak war. But claiming that crazies who do despicable things while shouting “Allah Akbar” are terrorists, while saying crazies who do despicable things while shouting “faggot” are just regular criminals refutes that very reasoning. Why is the murderer who was driven to kill James Byrd due to white supremacy different from the murderer driven to kill in Boston due to what he saw on YouTube?

That’s a good question. It’s not one I have engaged at length – my debate with Glenn Greenwald was not about that as such, but about other elements in his column. But first, a semantic but vital point. Terrorism is not violence committed by Muslims, as my reader wrote. It’s violence committed by Jihadists or Islamists most often against other Muslims.

The Woolwich butcher should be prosecuted for murder, in my view, in a civilian court. But most murders are not followed by the murderer hanging around asking for his photograph to be taken, his bloody hands still holding the butcher knives he used to behead and then mutilate a body. There is a pride in the evil that distinguishes this particular kind of barbarism, a pride that comes from religious certainty. There is also an implied threat: “You will never be safe.” When it is allied with organizations that attempt to randomly terrorize communities by violence, I think that’s worth noting. If only as a descriptive term.

Then there is the religious element, which can also be involved in hate crimes, of course, but not quite as explicitly as in, say, the Woolwich attack. What religion does is justify what would be unjustifiable by any other argument. It ups the ante as far as brutality is concerned. It empowers individuals with divine sanction to do anything –  a particularly dangerous streak in human nature. And it may intensify brutality in ways that might justify a different category in the law. But I need to think on this some more. And I’m grateful for that challenge to my own consistency here.