Thursday, 4 September 2014


I'm speculating pointlessly about this article which reports that a 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a woman found beheaded in an Edmonton garden. The article repeats twice that police are confident that there is no terrorist motive. 

Now, people in London are perhaps more likely to suspect terrorism since this horrifying incident occurred only 16 months ago. So I'm not complaining about the immediate jump to omg terrorism that is helpfully fuelled by the press in situations like this (it's likely that the police wouldn't have said anything about terrorism, had not some journalist asked them if there was a link, forcing a response).

What's bothering me is this denial of "terrorist motives". At its most basic, the idea of terrorism is to inspire terror. A terrorist commits an action against a people (Americans, Jews, 'the West') or an individual who represents a people - intending to instil fear in everyone who is a part of that community. It is usually framed as vengeful, as in the case of Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby, whose killers said of British soldiers "We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", or as in the 7/7 bombings, whose perpetrator had been exposed to violent footage of "Muslim suffering around the world".

So, yes, obviously those events are terrorism. But - and here's where I start speculating - if the victim and the perpetrator knew each other, it's probably going to turn out that the beheaded woman had angered her murderer in some way - let's say, by refusing to have sex with him. Or by having sex with someone else. Or by not behaving with enough modesty, or with too much self confidence or education or personality. Perhaps they have children together and he has more or less contact or responsibility than he'd like. 

As I say, speculating wildly and perhaps unacceptably. But say that one of these things is true, and this woman has been killed for acting in a manner unacceptable to this man, as have thousands upon thousands of women the world over for time immemorial. 

How is this not terrorism? It is intended to subjugate women, to instil in them fear of behaving in any way other than how men would like them to behave. It is a punishment, and a warning, to women everywhere. 

And yet we reserve the word "terrorism" for brown men who object to the Western world's treatment of Muslims throughout history. 

Funny how actions against women aren't called terrorism, while actions against (white) women and men are.

1 comment:

  1. So true! Thanks, and sorry I'm years late in reading it. I guess that's the immortality of writing though.