Woolwich, a district of London, England, received international coverage on May 22 following the violent murder of 25-year-old Lee Rigby. Two Britons of Nigerian descent, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, have been charged with the murder.
The alleged killers’ explanation for the murder was captured on a cellular phone camera and subsequently broadcast by British news networks. The spread of the clip ignited tensions and security concerns across the United Kingdom.
British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his visit to Paris following the murder.
The popular media portrayal of Rigby’s murder as an act of “terror” has since incited debate amongst both scholars and the public over whether or not the act properly falls under the umbrella of that term.
“There are strong indications that it is a terrorist incident,” Cameron said in a press conference, reported by the Telegraph UK. He urged the British people to “never buckle” in response to terrorism.
“We have suffered these attacks before. We have always beaten them back.”
For many, debate still continues over the semantics of the Woolwich murder.
University of Manitoba peace and conflict studies professor Hamdesa Tuso questioned the value of the debate itself.
“Why do we even want to define whether [someone killing another person] was an act of terror or an act of brutality?” Tuso said to the Manitoban.
“In legal proceedings, there are specific contexts and specific steps to prosecute somebody who kills someone else. For that purpose, such [a] definition may be important.”
Tuso also shared his expertise on acts of terrorism.
“Usually in an act of terrorism [ . . . ] there are certain objectives [for the person who commits such acts].”
Dr. Tuso described religious and political ideology for the purpose of both harming individuals as objectives and obtaining media coverage. He deemed the attacker’s media justification of the murder as “evidence strong enough to [categorize] the incident as an act of terror.”
Abdullah Isak, a third-year U of M engineering student from Somalia, questioned the Woolwich incident.
“We, the public, do not know the real story. Just believing news reports and governments is not enough; we need to understand events [from] a deeper perspective.”
Richard Scrambler, a British citizen, posited a similar definition of terrorism as Dr. Tuso.
“I agree the Woolwich murderers [were politically and religiously] motivated [ . . . ] [However], the murder itself was of a British solider, not a civilian, and was premeditated. I personally think this was just a brutal murder, nothing more.”
Christen Kate, a student from Nigeria who is pursuing her undergraduate studies in science at the U of M, also shared her reaction to the murder with the Manitoban.
“It felt very bad and it was disturbing to find out that they were of Nigerian descent. Shedding of blood is not [part of] African culture.”
The debate still continues as to whether the Woolwich attack was an act of terrorism or an act of human brutality.