Mohammed Saleem and Lee Rigby both victims of senseless, extremist violence - update 5/21/14

Mohammed Saleem and Lee Rigby both victims of senseless, extremist violence

by Sheila Musaji

In the past few weeks, there were TWO brutal machete/knife murders in London.  They have been treated and characterized very differently. 

This photograph was posted on Facebook.

In the first brutal murder, Mohamed Saleem, a 75 year old man was brutally stabbed to death by strangers as he returned home on a public street from his local mosque at night.  The Guardian reported that

  ...  Mohammed Saleem, who used a walking stick, was stabbed three times in the back as he returned home from prayers at his local mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham. 

The blows were struck with such violence they penetrated to the front of his body.  The father of seven also had no defensive wounds in what has been described as a swift, vicious and cowardly attack by the man leading the murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Mark Payne of West Midlands police.

Officers want to trace a white man, aged 25-32, of medium height and build, spotted on CCTV footage running near the scene of the attack around the time it happened, just before 10.30pm.  Police also want to trace a seven-seat people carrier captured on CCTV, driving near the mosque with the two male occupants, both white and in their 30s, who are considered “significant witnesses”. ...

The Daily Mail reported a few more details:  “...  He had been stabbed three times in the back and his head had been stamped on during the attack.  ...  The ‘highly respectable’ father of seven – who suffered from arthritis and walked with the aid of a stick – is not believed to have been targeted in a mugging gone wrong because his wallet was found in his clothing.”

Although this murder happened a few weeks ago, law enforcement has still not been able to locate the killer or killers.  There is a 10,000 pound reward being offered for information, and a video exists of the perpetrator running away.

Law enforcement and the media are characterizing this as a “possible” racially motivated attack, but withholding judgement until the perpetrator/s are caught and a definite motive can be ascertained.

In the second brutal murder, Lee Rigby, an off-duty British soldier was attacked and killed on a public street in broad daylight by two strangers.  This very similar murder received a great deal of attention, and was publicized around the world.  You would have to be living in a cave somewhere not to know the particulars of this case.

Both of the victims were innocent of any wrongdoing.  Both crimes were equally unprovoked, brutal and vicious.  Both victims were killed in a particularly horrific attack.  The families of both victims are suffering equally.  Why then, the difference in public outrage at the perpetrators and interest or compassion for the victims?  Why does one crime make people fearful, and the other crime go ignored?  There are many questions raised by such cases, but the consideration of why these cases are perceived and reacted to so differently is certainly one question worth asking.

Myriam Francois-Cerrah asks this particular question eloquently:  “Many have questioned why the murder has received such unprecedented coverage, with some ‎pointing out that the equally brutal murder of 75 year old Mohammed Saleem, stabbed to death as ‎he returned home from his local mosque in Birmingham earlier this month, received comparatively ‎little attention. In both cases, a violent minority may be implicated in a murder with political ‎dimensions, in one case politically radicalised Muslims, in the other, the Far-Right. Both could be ‎dubbed a form of ‘terrorism’ and yet, only one has been.‎  It is a rather trite observation to state that the term ‘terrorism’ has become eminently politicised, ‎used much more readily and easily to refer to violence by certain types of political dissidents, such ‎as those whose violence targets the majority, than to refer, as it was originally devised, to states, ‎or groups targeting minorities.” 

The perpetrators of these crimes are criminals who deserve to be tried and punished to the full extent of the law.  They don’t belong in civilized society.  They chose to carry out vicious acts that put them outside of civilized society.  They are responsible for their crimes.  My heart goes out to both of these victims and to their families.  They are in my prayers.

UPDATE 7/21/2013

BBC UK reports that Two Ukrainian nationals, aged 25 and 22, have been detained by detectives investigating explosions at mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton between 22 June and 12 July.  One of two Ukrainian men being held over bomb attacks near three mosques has been further charged with suspicion of murdering 75-year-old Mohammed Saleem.  The mosque blasts are being considered an act of terrorism.  Police have said the murder is also being treated as an act of terrorism.

More on Tipton Mosque explosion, Wolverhampton Mosque explosion, and Walsall Mosque explosions.

One of the two men, Pavlo Lapshyn has been charged with the “terrorist-related” murder of Mohammed Saleem

UPDATE 10/24/2013

BBC News reports Man admits murder and mosque blasts:

Mohammed Saleem was stabbed by Pavlo Lapshyn in Small Heath on 29 April, less than a week after Lapshyn had arrived in the UK.  At the Old Bailey, 25-year-old Lapshyn pleaded guilty to murder, as well as plotting to cause explosions near mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton in June and July.  He will be sentenced on Friday.  The postgraduate student, from Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine, was living in Birmingham while on a temporary work placement in the city when he killed Mr Saleem.

...  After his initial arrest for planting the explosive device outside a mosque in Walsall, he told police: “I would like to increase racial conflict.”  When asked why he had targeted the mosque he replied: “Because they are not white - and I am white.”  ...

The Guardian has more on this story here.  That article adds the additional information about the perpetrator that:  ”... Lapshyn had been a gifted student who was studying for a PhD in machine building. Social media pages belonging to him contain extremist rightwing and Nazi material. There were images of Timothy McVeigh, whose bombing of a US government building in Oklahoma in 1995 killed 168 people.  Ukrainian researchers say Lapshyn’s social media pages also contain material relating to Hitler, about contemporary Nazis, and rabidly antisemitic material. A laptop seized by British police contained an extremist rightwing publication, The Turner Diaries, also believed to have been read by McVeigh. ...”  The fact that he was also anti-Semitic comes as no surprise, as racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism often go hand in hand.

UPDATE 5/21/2014

Faith Matters reports on the anniversary of the death of Lee Rigby Remembering Lee Rigby & His Family - the 22nd of May 2013:

...  The Director of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal OBE said:

“What took place on the 22nd of May 2013 also showed us that what we value in our capital and in our country, (the peace and ability to live free from fear), is fragile and needs protecting. Yet, even after such a heinous crime, we have managed to get on with each other and to maintain calm. This is unique to us in the United Kingdom and the foundations of cohesion have been built after decades of hard, dedicated and committed work from all sections of our communities. So as the 22nd of May draws near, let us remember Lee and his family and take courage and strength in the knowledge that we can control our futures together. Collective action against extremism of any form is one key element to maintaining that peace.”



Originally published May 5, 2013

Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published since 1989.  Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism,  and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia.  Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.    Biography  You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji ( )


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