A Tale of Two Murders

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog 29 May 2013)
Are police still institutionally racist, or is it society?

On 29 April 2013, 75 year old Mohammed Saleem left the Green Lane Mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham and was walking home when he was attacked and stabbed to death. On 20 May 2013, Drummer Lee Rigby was pinned against a wall by a car and hacked to death near Woolwich Barracks, London. His assailants were shot and wounded by armed police on the scene.

As I type this, ten people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement of the murder of Drummer Rigby. Not only have there been no arrests for the murder or involvement thereof of Mohammed Saleem,
West Midlands Police have stated that there is
“no evidence” that the killing was racial in nature.

This is despite the fact that Mr Saleem’s son, who runs a gym refused threatening letters of a racist and Islamophobic nature from someone purporting to be connected to the extreme right English Defence League (EDL). The first letter stated “It has come to our attention that you are training terrorists at your premises. We will not tolerate any terrorist activities on our soil. We urge you to close this gym as soon as possible.” and the second said “there will be serious consequences because you haven’t listened to us.” Neither Mr Saleem’s son nor his gym have ever been under any investigation for alleged terrorist activities.

Mohammed Saleem’s daughter, Shazia Khan, has passed both letters to the police, whom she has criticised for their inaction over her father’s death. She has stated “As time has gone on, the more information we’ve given them…. I just feel like are we creating more work for them? It’s like a hassle and it shouldn’t be the case. I know the detective in charge has worked very hard and I do respect that. Indeed we respect the work that’s gone into the investigation but I just don’t think it’s enough.”

It beggars belief to me that West Midlands Police should claim that there is no evidence the murder was racially motivated. Were the letters sent to his son not evidence enough, Asians in the UK live daily with the threat of assault and infinitely more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it, fact. It seems to me therefore that treating any assault or murder of an Asian in the UK should have a ‘default setting’ of automatically assuming it to be racially motivated. Or to put it another way, open your eyes West Midlands Police; if something looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can easily assume it’s not a bloody ostrich.

Also in the wake of Drummer Rigby’s murder there have been talks by Conservative Members of Parliament, including members of the government cabinet, for a crackdown on Islamic radicalisation, including possibly a ban on them being broadcast on the media. This was previously done in the 1980s concerning the IRA and Sinn Fein and it made not one bit of difference to either. The IRA kept up their campaign and broadcasters merely got actors to do voiceover of Sinn Fein statements. Apart from this, not one member of the government has voiced any possibility similarly silencing extreme right, racist and anti-Islamic groups, despite there being over 200 arrests of attacks on Muslims since Drummer Rigby’s murder.

On 22 September 1993 a Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus in London. The Metropolitan police botched the investigation, blamed the victim in trying to claim the murder was a black gangland killing, attempted to alter evidence and it took until 2012 to secure convictions for the boys murder. An enquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder ruled that there “institutional racism” within the police. Given how long it is taking to arrest any suspect for the murder of Mohammed Saleem, when Lee Rigby’s murder has already seen ten arrested, one cannot help but wonder if this same old malaise is at play.

Of course it may be argued that the Metropolitan Police have better leads. This may be true, just as it is undoubtedly true that someone must know who murdered Mohammed Saleem and is protecting him. But it has now been one month since the murder and for West Midlands Police not only to have made any arrests but to claim that it was not racially motivated leaves one incredulous.

When I have voiced this before, I have had people claim that Drummer Lee Rigby was a serving soldier who deserves our respect. My reply then, which I repeat here, is so does an old man who was doing nobody any harm. Just because I call for justice for the murder of Mohammed Saleem does not mean for one moment that I do not wish the same for Lee Rigby, or that I somehow disrespect his memory. This is utter nonsense; I honour them both. If anyone is disrespecting the death of Lee Rigby, it is not just the neo-nazi extreme right going rioting and attacking Muslims but every single person who uses, sorry, abuses his murder as an excuse to voice their ignorant racist and anti-Islamic views, from the general public right up to and including the gutter press and politicians who should know better. It starts there and it ends with open violence against people who have done no harm but merely wish to follow their own faith – or merely have a different colour skin. Those who fuel those flames do anything but respect Drummer Rigby; they drag his memory through the mud.

Both men were murdered in a brutal and cowardly fashion and both deserve the respect of each and every one of us.

And do you know whom I believe would agree with that? One gentleman who served in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and a few days before his death was seen caught on CCTV laughing and joking with the Asian Muslim staff in a kebab shop where he was a well-known regular customer – Drummer Lee Rigby.

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