The loquacious Russell Brand tries to put the killing of Lee Rigby into perspective, dismissing the popular narrative that Islam is an inherently violent religion and placing the blame on the mental state of the killers:
In spite of his dispassionate intoning the subject is not rational, of course he’s not rational, he’s just murdered a stranger in the street, he says, because of a book.
In my view that man is severely mentally ill and has found a convenient conduit for his insanity, in this case the Quran. In the case of another mentally ill and desperate man, Mark Chapman, it was A Catcher In The Rye. This was the nominated text for his rationalisation of the murder of John Lennon. I’ve read that book and I’ve read some of the Quran and nothing in either of them has compelled me to do violence. Perhaps this is because I lack the other necessary ingredients for extreme anti social behaviour; mental illness and isolation; either economic, social or both.
According to Brand, this extreme anti social behavior can be seen throughout society and is not particular to Islam:
When some football fans smash up shops and beat each other up that isn’t because of football or football clubs. It’s because loads of white, working class men have been culturally neglected and their powerful tribal instincts end up getting sloshed about in riotous lager carnivals….
What the English Defence League and other angry, confused people are doing and advocating now, violence against mosques, Muslims, proliferation of hateful rhetoric is exactly what that poor, sick, murderous man, blood soaked on a peaceful street, was hoping for in his desperate, muddled mind.
Brand certainly has a point. While the brutality of Rigby’s murder was shocking, the slaughter of 75 year old Muslim Mohammed Saleem, a well respected Muslim man in a possibly racially motivated attack in Birmingham only weeks before was equally as horrendous, yet there was little fuss made by the national press. Whoever killed the elderly gentleman (two 30 year old white men are said to be of significant interest to the police) surely suffer from the same rage as the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby. Perhaps their hatred and sociopathy derives from religious or political text. Or perhaps their hatred was born from a society that left them feeling powerless, and their brutal crime was justified with pseudo intellectual ideology that, as Brand says, was ‘a convenient conduit’ for their insanity.
One explanation says nothing of the remaining 55 million white people in Britain who go to church, participate in the political system, take pride in their country and don’t go around stabbing pensioners to death. It is an explanation that fosters more fear and prejudice, and provides a convenient target that doesn’t require much thinking. The other is harder, more complicated, but is ultimately more humane. As Brand writes:
The establishment too is relatively happy when different groups of desperate people point the finger at each other because it prevents blame being correctly directed at them…To truly demonstrate defiance in the face of this sad violence, we must be loving and compassionate to one another. Let’s look beyond our superficial and fleeting differences. The murderers want angry patriots to desecrate mosques and perpetuate violence. How futile their actions seem if we instead leave flowers at each other’s places of worship. Let’s reach out in the spirit of love and humanity and connect to one another, perhaps we will then see what is really behind this conflict, this division, this hatred and make that our focus.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.