This morning I'm on BBC Radio Leicester, speaking live in the studio with Jonathan Lampon (photo above) just after 0800 about the Woolwich incident and its ramifications for community relations. Here's a transcript of the interview.
JL: Let’s turn our attention to our top story this morning – and Leicestershire Police says it has no cause to believe that there’s any increased threat to communities here, following the death of a soldier in a suspected terror attack in Woolwich. This morning it’s emerged that the two suspects were already known to MI5. Twenty-five year old army drummer Lee Rigby was killed by suspected Muslim extremists, wielding knives and a meat cleaver. Well Richard Barrat is the former head of Counter Terrorism at MI6; he says it’s impossible to keep a 24-hour watch on everyone who’s ever expressed radical views.
RB: First there’s a question of resources, but then also there’s a question of legality and beyond that I think there’s a whole question of values. I mean, what sort of society are we trying to protect? I don’t think there’s any way that the security service can sort of just close down the activity, put them all on security bracelets or bang them up or whatever of anybody who has expressed a radical view. That would be ridiculous; it would move us into a society that we don’t want to live in.
JL: Well police in Leicester are calling for calm and are working in neighbourhoods to reassure people. We spoke to members of the Muslim community here and some feel that Islam is once again taking the blame for this particular incident. [vox pop with two local Muslims]
JL: Well listening to that in the studio with me is George Ballentyne from the Leicester Council of Faiths. George, welcome to the programme.
GMB: Good morning.
JL: Just listening to that, do you think that this case in London is likely to cause tensions among communities?
GMB: Well I think it would be very naive to say that it wouldn’t. It just can’t help but cause some kind of tension. But of course the important thing is how that’s managed and I think that we can play a big role in making sure things don’t go out of proportion or escalate out of hand and I think that there are well-intentioned, strong-willed people who are helping to manage this so that the best possible outcome comes for everybody.
JL: Why are we in the situation though whereby we have to have an apology from Muslim Council of Britains within minutes of this attack happening? There’s a part of me that finds that finds it all rather distasteful. Because, of course, this is nothing to do with the Muslim community, of course this is nothing to do with religion. These are the case of two individuals – as far as we know that are mentally ill – you don’t do this unless you’re mentally ill. So Is there a bit of a knee-jerk reaction sometimes within communities, do you think?
GMB: Well, If you think about that phrase the “knee jerk reaction” – where it comes from – that medical test where the doctor hits you on the cartilage under the knee with a little hammer and your leg pops – out that’s a test that something’s healthy and that your leg is functioning properly. something’s healthy and your leg is functioning properly and maybe the idea of making a speedy reaction as a way of trying to pour some oil on the troubled waters is actually a healthy and good thing to do. It would be good if it wasn’t necessary, of course it would be. But it’s also interesting that many people still call for these kind of response and call for statements even though they’re being made, as if they can’t actually see them or can’t hear them. So the fact that they have to be made at all – really, for many people they’re just not penetrating, not getting through to them for some reason.
JL: Again, I mean the clips that we heard there from some members of the Muslim community here in Leicester, they say, you know, that the incident is being blamed and laid at their door, what does the community need to do to (in other words) put off, or get rid of any potential copycat attacks or anything like that?
GMB: Copycat attacks are something that, from all the things I’ve been hearing, you cqn’t really predict them or defend against them – and people do some stupid things under these circumstances, but I think that the real way to try to get beyond this is – We all have a lived experience in Leicester of being with people who are from another faith another culture another ethnic background. I think it would be pretty hard to find anyone in Leicester who doesn’t work alongside a Muslim, or have a Muslim friend or take part in some kind of social activities that mix them with people from other races, faiths and backgrounds and I think it’s being true to our own experience and what we find of people as themselves, that really help get through this, rather than reacting to stereotypes.
JL: George, thank you very much indeed. Well also listening to this and joining us on the line is Andrew Robathan, the Leicestershire South MP, and the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. [extended interview with Andrew Robathan MP]
JL: And just back to you, George Ballentyne from Leicester Council of Faiths, you would agree with that last comment there, wouldn’t you?
GMB: Yes, I think the most important thing now is to allow the legal process to follow through, as it should do. Whatever justification people have tried to give for this act – it’s a crime that’s been committed and it’s in the hands of the law.
JL: Thanks very much for coming in: George Ballentyne there.
A few hours after the interview, Jonathan was gracious enough to tweet me:
@GMBallentyne thank you for coming in with insightful view on community relations following #Woolwich attack.
Follow Jonathan Lampon on Twitter: @jlampon