Yesterday, we considered the strange and rather Islamophobic argument in the European Muslim Research Centre’s new publication, Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: that Lutfur Rahman could not oppose Hizb ut Tahrir, because to do so would “risk alienating his largely Muslim core support“.
Today, we turn to a really surreal section entitled: “Neil Lewington case: a community perspective”.
The story starts with Neil Lewington, a neo Nazi terrorist who had constructed a bomb making factory in his bedroom. Lewington was arrested, drunk, on a train, and was found to be carrying bomb components. Material recovered during the subsequent investigation showed him to be deeply involved in a Nazi subculture. For example, he kept some of his plans in his “Waffen SS UK Members Handbook“.
Lewington was convicted of having explosives with intent to endanger life and preparing for acts of terrorism. His conviction was widely reported, and he was described in the press variously as a White Supremacist, a Terrorist, a Racist and a Neo Nazi.
The Report focuses on the reaction of a Mosque official, who they interviewed, in a town which might possibly have been one of the intended targets of Lewington case. Here is the relevant section, in which they recount the official’s understanding of Lewington’s motivation:
“What happen[ed] actually, the link, as we found in the media and we have spoken to police and, he [Lewington] had a intimate girlfriend. She lives in Lowestoft, and she used to have a husband, a Muslim husband, and they split us and she had lots of stories, you know, against the Muslim husband probably, and that guy [Lewington] pretty sympathise with her, and he probably has taken that on his own strike to get the Muslims sorted I think…”
The report comments:
We do not seek to suggest that our interviewee has established an authoritative or definitive account of the Lewington case – far from it – but we would argue that his community focused account illustrates how media and messages from police often combine to inform local knowledge that is in turn amplified by information from within communities. This is what happens, especially in small insular Muslim communities such as in Lowestoft.
A good point.
The mosque official continues:
“[Lewington] became anti-Muslim, you know, because of this woman and that’s why he come to blow up. Police didn’t especially tell us, or especially place or a special person individual. ‘Cos only we heard this from because if he knows that it is a Mosque, he might have planned to blow this one up or blow other, because… Even, its fortunate that the guy was drunk that night, that day, when he was travelling through the train to attack somebody. “
We conclude our brief analysis of this local perspective by reference to the narrative that developed in the local community:
Because that woman [Lewington’s girlfriend], she lives in this town and she got married [to a] Muslim man in this town, they got two children, and they split up, I think, there was a story… because she ran away, blah, blah, blah, and the man he take the children with him, and he don’t live in Lowestoft, that guy, he live in London now.
When I first read this account of the Lowestoft rumour mill, I wasn’t entirely sure what point was being made.
Initially, I thought that the argument was that, in the absence of adequate reporting, absurd rumour and speculation circulate in communities that are the targets of terrorism. Alternatively, I thought that the police were being blamed for spreading an unconvincing story that a man who was clearly a Nazi through and through, was actually motivated by a personal matter involving his girlfriend. In other words, the “girlfriend” story was being spread to depoliticise the case.
But no. That’s not the conclusion at all. Rather, the Report’s authors argue that the press is to blame for failing to investigate and report on Lewington’s possible personal motivation:
Important evidence here then of an account where political extremism combines with personal antagonism to produce a motivation that is particular to an individual case. Whatever a full investigation of motivation might reveal we can be sure that it would involve a personal story of one kind or another (if not precisely the one that has been told in this local community) working in combination with an attachment to even the loosest form of extremist nationalism to produce the criminal mens rea that distinguishes all kinds of political violence from extremist political ideology per se. As is stands we have a story of violence and failed relationships that the national mainstream media would generally love to exploit, especially in connection with al-Qaeda related terrorism, but seemingly not when Muslims are the intended target.
For a start, Lewington identified himself with the Waffen SS. I really wouldn’t call that ” an attachment to even the loosest form of extremist nationalism”. Moreover, apart from some rambling interview with a Mosque official, what evidence is there that Lewington was motivated by personal considerations at all? In my view, to try to argue that Lewington is best understood, not as a racist and neo Nazi, but as a man with some personal and relationship issues, is playing down the seriousness of this man’s conviction.
It is ironic that a report which claims to thrown the spotlight on anti Muslim hatred and Islamophobia should be guilty of playing it down. However, given that the major purpose of the report is to attack the Quilliam Foundation while boosting Islamist political organisations, like the Jamaat-e-Islami front group, the Islamic Forum Europe, this approach should surprise no one.
But here’s why.
The EMRC would love to be able to say that Islamist terrorists aren’t motivated by their Islamist ideology, but by “personal factors”. This is clearly bollocks. However, it is a necessary argument for those who are determined to defend a violent terrorist ideology. In order to support that dubious conclusion, they’ve actually attempted to play down Lewington’s own highly ideological racist motivation.