June 19, 2017 Abdul Haqq

Shades of Terror: Death by a thousand cuts


Ramadan 2017 is likely to be remembered in Britain for the wrong reasons: 3 tragic incidents have occurred within days of each other, resulting in unprecedented loss of life and injuries.[1] The most recent Finsbury Park attack bears the hallmarks of the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge attacks, only this time, the perpetrator was non-Muslim and white. Additionally, the other stark difference is that, unlike the perpetrators of the earlier attacks, he was actually captured and detained. [2]

Another fundamental but increasingly alarming difference is how the most recent attack was first reported. A few well-known media outlets initially refused to label the incident a terrorist attack despite the above-mentioned similarities, eyewitness accounts and police declaring it a terrorist incident within 8 minutes.[3] The BBC was one such outlet using inverted commas (i.e. “terrorist attack”) to suggest it was an unusual incident and by extension, probably not warranting a terrorist description. They have since updated their story.[4]

The struggle continues

The inherent bias should come as no surprise. We only have to look at the case of Thomas Mair – late MP Jo Cox’s killer – and the fact he was tried for her murder as opposed to terrorism. This is despite the prosecution stating emphatically that he had committed a terrorist offence and was therefore ‘regarded as a terrorist.’ [5] I addressed this case in a previous article so will not elaborate further here.[6]

One conclusion that can be reached when comparing this latest attack with the almost identical ones at Westminster and London Bridge is that Muslim perpetrators of darker complexions immediately equate to terrorists, whereas those who are non-Muslim and of a lighter (whiter) hue do not. Adebolajo and Adebowale[7]–Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers – were also eventually charged with murder; however, this does not change the above observation as there was no hesitation in labeling their barbaric attack as terrorism, even as they stood proclaiming their distorted beliefs before the police arrived. Why is there an apparent disparity when reporting such incidents? Even when we look further afield at cases like that of Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway, he was subjected to the country’s ‘soft’ laws and charged with murder. He received the country’s maximum 21-year sentence.[8] Look even further afield in the US and the disparity between sentencing black and white criminals is even more glaring.[9]

Institutionalised Islamophobia is the new black

Following Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993, the subsequent Macpherson Report identified institutionalised racism against ethnic minorities – the black community in particular. The report recommended a raft of proposals to tackle ‘institutionally racist’ police.[10] To claim that little has changed since then is to deny the overall progress made between police and black communities. However, this does not necessarily include or extend to Muslims.

Islamophobia has largely replaced the type of racism once targeting black communities and has, to some extent, become the undercurrent of police and Muslim community relations. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, the gradual shift of the PREVENT Strategy, from a community-focused to community-targeted approach, is sufficient evidence to highlight this Islamophobic trend.

The currently beleaguered Prime Minister, Theresa May, appears to have overcome her recent ineptitude (which resulted in political and PR disasters) by making an emphatic statement about this recent attack. Her public statement regarding Islamophobia being a form of extremism is long overdue and welcomed. She should be commended for this timely speech, which also acknowledged the common values that we all – British Muslims and non-Muslims alike – share.[11] However, are her comments merely superficial rhetoric or will we begin to witness a shift in the government’s approach from the sort of bias that has crept into political as well as media narratives when it relates to Muslims?

Terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms…[12]

May’s above comments are also correct but how far reaching are they? She and her predecessors have ignored a significant elephant in the room that has existed for far too long now. The most demoralising type of terror is the subtle but sustained kind that affects the most disadvantaged in society – ‘Corporate terrorism’. This comes under the guise of a variety of names, depending on the era we live in. Today, it is referred to as austerity. In its mildest form, it results in displacing families from inner cities to more remote areas:

More than 50,000 families have been silently shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years, an investigation by The Independent can reveal.

‘Leaked documents obtained by this newspaper expose the true scale of “social cleansing” taking place across the capital as a result of welfare cuts and soaring rents. The figures show an unprecedented number of families who cannot afford to find homes in their local area being uprooted from their neighbourhoods and dumped further and further away from the capital, cut off from their relatives and support networks.[13]


Councils in London are increasingly looking at housing people on housing benefit in less expensive areas of the country as the coalition’s welfare reforms start to bite.[14]

And finally,

Hundreds of homes on the council estate…once branded the worst places to grow up in Britain – are set for demolition to make way for a huge housing scheme.

Wandsworth council plans to borrow £100 million from the Government to renew Winstanley estate in Battersea, as well as the York Road estate nearby.

About 700 properties will be demolished and replaced, and between 700 and 1050 more will be built, many of them private.[15]

In its most destructive form, we witness the horrific events at Grenfell Tower, caused primarily by neglect and corporate greed. Emerging reports point to £10 million being spent in order to regenerate the tower when in reality, this was a cosmetic exercise to make it less of an eyesore for the more affluent neighbours in the surrounding properties.[16] David Lammy, MP rightly attributes this tragedy to corporate manslaughter[17] but that is not going far enough. Corporate terrorism is at the heart of this tragedy and must now be recognised for what it is before another similar incident occurs. Previous and existing governments may have been complicit in enabling this form of terrorism due to their own vested interests.[18] The noble thing to do in these circumstances is to change existing legislation and then resign. It is doubtful either will occur in the short term.

As we await a final body count, the phrase ‘death by a thousand cuts[19] takes on an altogether new meaning. However, in this instance, death by a million cuts is more appropriate in view of the amount spent to fatally entomb so many unfortunate lives.





[1] Refer to media coverage of the London Bridge & Borough Market attacks, Grenfell Tower fire and Finsbury Park incident.

[2] BBC News: ‘Finsbury Park attack suspect named as Darren Osborne,’ 19th June 2017: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40332616

[3] Revesz, R: ‘Finsbury Park Latest: Read Theresa May’s full speech on ‘evil’ attack,’ The Independent, 19th June 2017: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/finsbury-park-mosque-attack-latest-theresa-may-full-speech-van-crash-terror-a7797136.html

[4] BBC News: ‘Finsbury Park attack: Theresa May condemns ‘sickening’ attack,’ 19th June 2017: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-40322960

[5] Cobain, I & Taylor, M: ‘Far-right terrorist Thomas Mair jailed for life for Jo Cox murder’, The Guardian, 23rd November 2016: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/23/thomas-mair-found-guilty-of-jo-cox-murder

[6] Baker, A H: ‘Converts are [not] the problem’, 27th March 2017: https://abdulhaqqbaker.com/converts-are-not-the-problem/

[7] BBC News: ‘Lee Rigby murder: Adebolajo and Adebowale jailed,’ 26th February 2017: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26357007

[8] Lewis, M & Lyall, S: ‘Norway Mass killer Gets the Maximum: 21 Years,’ The New York Times, 24th August 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/25/world/europe/anders-behring-breivik-murder-trial.html

[9] Emery Jnr. C E: ‘Hillary Clinton says black more likely to be arrested, get longer sentences,’ Politifact, 26th Februaryb 2016: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/feb/26/hillary-clinton/hillary-clinton-says-blacks-more-likely-be-arreste/

[10] The Guardian: ‘The Macpherson Report: summary’, 24th February 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/feb/24/lawrence.ukcrime12

[11] Travis, A: ‘May says Islamophobia is a form of extremism, marking a shift in rhetoric,’ The Guardian, 19th June 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/19/may-says-islamophobia-form-extremism-marking-shift-rhetoric?

[12] Revesz, R: ‘Finsbury Park Latest: Read Theresa May’s full speech on ‘evil’ attack,’ The Independent, 19th June 2017: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/finsbury-park-mosque-attack-latest-theresa-may-full-speech-van-crash-terror-a7797136.html

[13] The Independent: ‘Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents,’ 29th April 2015: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/over-50000-families-shipped-out-of-london-in-the-past-three-years-due-to-welfare-cuts-and-soaring-10213854.html

[14] Brown, C: ‘Councils plan to move tenants out of London,’ Inside Housing, 27th April 2012: http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/councils-plan-to-move-tenants-out-of-london/6521606.article#

[15] Blunden, M: ‘London housing estate where So Solid Crew formed set for demolition,’ The Standard, 20th February 2014: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/london-housing-estate-where-so-solid-crew-formed-set-for-demolition-9141056.html

[16] Griffin, A: ‘London fire: Cladding was added to help ‘regenerate’ Grenfell Tower, Kensington MP says,’ The Independent, 16th June 2017: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-fire-grenfell-tower-kensington-mp-emma-dent-coad-cladding-refurbishment-a7792901.html

[17] Laville, S, Gentleman, A & Ross, A: ‘Grenfell Tower fire is corporate manslaughter, says Labour MP,’ The Guardian, 15th June 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/15/grenfell-tower-death-toll-rises-to-17-as-hope-to-find-survivors-wanes

[18] Palmer, E: ‘Full list of landlord Tory MPs who voted against making properties ‘fit for human habitation,’ Intenational Business Times, 16th June 2017: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/full-list-landlord-tory-mps-who-voted-against-making-properties-fit-human-habitation-1537725

[19] Death by a Thousand Cuts is a book by historians Timothy Brook and Gregory Blue and scientific researcher Jerome Bourgon which examines the use of slow slicing lingchi, a form of torture and capital punishment practised in mid- and late- Imperial China from the tenth century until its abolition in 1905.


Definition of ‘death by a thousand cuts’: ‘A failure that occurs as a result of many smaller problems… [It] could refer to the termination of a proposed deal as a result of several smaller issues rather than one major cause.”