The Woolwich murder coverage – not the media’s finest hour

It’s not the first time that someone has been murdered in London this year, but it’s entirely understandable that yesterday’s brutal and horrific killing in Woolwich has gained so much attention.  There is still an underlying nervousness in our society surrounding terrorism and religious extremism   That’s why it was imperative that the violence caused was condemned across the board as quickly as possible.  To refrain from doing so would have given more fuel to groups such as the English Defence League and British National Party in their hateful opposition to Muslims.

It was therefore welcoming to see the Muslim Council of Britain denouncing the Woolwich murder along with many other Muslims who took to Twitter to voice their disgust at such a barbaric act.  There are teachings in the Qu’ran that can be interpreted in a certain way to justify this sort of action and undoubtedly there are pockets within the Muslim community that are giving great cause for concern but to lump all Muslims together  in any way is no more accurate than calling all football supporters hooligans.  This is why it was so frustrating to hear initial reports from the BBC when the news was coming in that the two attackers were of “Muslim appearance”.  This was deeply inappropriate given the immediacy of the situation and the lack of solid information.  It’s hard to understand what the benefit was of using such a phrase unless it was to present a stereotype of Muslims as unhinged extremists.  Nick Robinson later tweeted this in his defence:

To blame his words on both the police and government is hardly an excuse.  It would seem that the pressure to get events from a significant breaking story out as quickly as possible has led the media to make some rash and insensitive decisions.  The ‘Muslim appearance’ comment was bad, but not as poorly judged as ITV’s gruesome footage of one of the murderers speaking to camera with the victim’s blood all over his hands, still clutching the murder weapons whilst the body lay in the background.  The video was labelled as an exclusive, which would usually mean that its purpose would be to gain as many ratings as possible.  In the clamour to get attention, ITV has thrown sensitivity out of the window.  Most of today’s papers have done no better, splashing graphic images over their pages.

The media coverage of yesterday’s events is symptomatic of a creeping trend for more violent and graphic images to be shown in the news.  Over time we have become increasingly desensitised as the shock value has diminished, but is this such a good thing?  It could be argued that we’re being presented with a more real and accurate picture of the story.  Somewhere though is a family of a dead soldier whose body has been butchered and the aftermath has been broadcast repeatedly in detail.  How would each one of us feel if that victim was our friend or son or husband or father?

I was unable to watch the news last night.  The way the story had been covered left me feeling physically sick and in grief for those who knew the dead man.  Yesterday was not the media’s finest moment by a long way.  When the media whips itself up into a frenzy it rarely makes good judgments.  Is this approach really the direction we want it to continue to take?

Update 23 May pm: Nick Robinson has now published an apology on the BBC website regarding his comments and ITV has blurred parts of their video footage, which justifies the point this article on rushing things out with a lack of thought.

Categories: Islam, Media, Morals & ethics

Tags: , , , , , ,

34 replies

  1. Alas, the fact is that the assailants did their deed in the name of their faith and prophet. It is also a fact that they can get endorsement, and inspiration, for their evil deeds from what both the Koran, and the hadiths, teach all the followers of Mohammed to emulate in certain circumstances and in given contexts. Not every follower of Mohammed is going to follow his violent teachings in exactly the same way or at exactly the same time. There is the whole issue of application and interpretation. Nonetheless this kind of thing – now once again witnessed in London – is not by any means unique, nor by an means confined to ‘Islamists’. You have quite widespread Mohammedan violence all over the Mohammedan world, stretching from India, Indonesia and Chechnya to Sudan and Nigeria and Palestine/Israel. And it is all done in the name of Mohammed, their prophet, citing verses, deeds and the sharia. Yes: there is a problem with the teachings and doings of their prophet; and it is not confined, in its following, to just to a few ‘extremists’. You have the whole Mohammedan child sex abuse situation in many of our cities. Try visiting any Mohammedan majority country and I think that you will get the picture.

    • The sheer horror of the Woolwich murder should not be an excuse for labelling ‘the whole Mohammedan world’ as essentially called to violence.
      Having lived a large part of my life in Moslem countries, I have a high regard for their way of life, with its enormous compassion, and a pattern of prayer 5 times a day which is common to all Moslems [can we possibly imagine every part of our British workforce stopping to wash and then pray 5 times a day?]
      It is a terrible calumny to picture all Moslems as violent: they are not – any more than all UK residents are EDL sympathisers/activists.
      As with any extreme branch of any part of society – anywhere in the world – there will be individuals who claim the authority of Koran/Bible/voices; and commit deeds of absolute horror.
      No nation has clean hands.
      The early part of the Koran does not have the same character as the later part: but please let us be clear what ‘jihad’ means – in a religious context and faith.
      For succinctness, I am quoting Wikipedia’s useful summary: “There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle. The “GREATER JIHAD” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties. This non-violent meaning is stressed by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors.
      The “LESSER JIHAD” is the physical struggle against the enemies of Islam. This can take a violent or a non-violent form. The proponents of the violent form translate jihad as “holy war”, although some Islamic studies scholars disagree. Some scholars maintain non-violent ways to struggle against the enemies of Islam. An example of this is written debate, often characterized as “jihad of the pen”.

      • I don’t know why you praise Muslims for “praying” 5 times a day. Their prayer is false and meaningless, because they pray to a false God. Only through Jesus can anyone enter into genuine prayer. Islam is a false religion that believes in salvation by “good works” i.e. religiously going through the motions of false prayer, trying to make yourself acceptable to God by the things you DO, rather than trusting in Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice to atone for one’s sin by taking the punishment we all deserve.
        I have heard the minister of the church I attend denounce Islam as an “evil religion.” I agree! Even amongst its strands which do not condone violence, it is still evil for teaching an alternative to Christ, as the only true God, the only one who can save us from our sins and provide us with the only way to heaven.

    • You’re quite right Robert. The root of the problem lies with the life and personality of the founder of this so-called ‘religion of peace’ – the only one that ‘sanctifies’ murdering unbelievers, as well as fellow believers, almost 21,000 since 9/11! Islam undoubtedly teaches crimes against humanity – with the exception of deceased Churchill and Powell, all politicians wilfully remain ignorant and blind. Lord give them brains to get a grip on this!

      It was too distressing to watch over supper but the opening frames clearly indicated a Qur’anic motive. Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch has several posts on this and has been informed our media censored out the full references. And as ever, ‘Sultan Knish’ hits the nail on the head, “If you import millions of people who follow a religion that sanctifies tribal violence, then you must expect tribal violence to tear apart what you have built. And if you do not wish that to happen, then you must close the gates on the barbarians.” (

      Just as God gave his stiff-necked, reprobate Hebrew people over to savage Assyrians so too has his protective hand been removed after our representatives deliberately turned against His ordinance on marriage on Tuesday. Look what followed on Wednesday!

      • Richard just to clarify that the two murderers are British born and at least one was a Christian until converting to Islam. An uninformed reading of the Bible would lead some to think that tribal violence is actually at the heart of Christianity. The personality and life of David bears some scrutiny in the terms you have analysed Mohammed. If Tuesdays vote and Wednesdays murder are connected as you suggest, what is the causal link to the murders that take place on the Streets of London every day and have been taking place for 100’s of years. What were the events that caused the attacks of 7/7 and 9/11 and many other events and for how long will the vote on Tuesday lead to similar actions taking place?

        • Thanks for your good points Ian, which I’d like to answer in detail after B/Hol weekend, especially in view of what intercessors had discerned before 7/7 attack.

        • Ian, the man can not have deen a Christian before converting to Islam, as a) GENUINE (as opposed to cultural) Christians do not murder, b) GENUINE Christians will be kept by Christ, and not appostatize; if someone turns away from Christ, that is evidence they were never saved to start with. (Hebrews 6:4-6) Jesus said “I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”(John 6:39) Both the acts of murder and professing Islam show this attacker never belonged to Christ. “by their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:20)

        • Helen, my comment was in reference to Richards earlier use of a quotation, and it referred to the issue that at least one of the murders was not born into a Muslim family, nor brought up as a Muslim. I do not have the ability to see into mens hearts any more than you do. However I do think there are some who fall away even after following Jesus. That may reflect things that you and I would see differently but it is certainly something I have observed.

        • Ian, I accept you were using a quotation from the media, I too heard media refs to him being a Christian who converted to Islam. It is the ignorance of the media which irks me in these situations; cultural Christian does not equal regenerate/born again! I’m sure you already knew this!

        • According to you we Muslims pray to a “false god” and Jesus is who we should be praying to, well for your information we pray to the One and only God the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
          and all that exists. As
          far as we are concerned
          it is you who is praying to a false god. A “god” who was man who eat and walked and lived
          amongst people a “god”
          who you believed
          died….a “god” who
          prayed himself (if you
          read your bible) and to
          whom did he pray to?Jesus said to pray to
          God where in your bible
          did he say pray to me?It is your religion which
          is false based upon a text which has been altered by the hands of many men, many times over.So now you believe in a thing called”salvation”.I don’t give a damn who this animal says he is a “Muslim” now we Muslims as a Whole community abhor this disgusting act. In the sick clip that was being erred I noticed how this animal was quoting the bible “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” that seems to have gone unmentioned. There are people here saying that any fanatic can take many quotes out of Quran to justify this type of thing. Well the same can be said about the bible. Whilst idiots are cutting and pasting quotes from Quran from the Internet, out of context and without the full quotations, anyone can chop up quotes out of any book to change what is being said and referring to what.

        • But the fact is we don’t make these nice distinctions when talking about religion in terms of the culture you’ve been brought up in. If you were a Muslim you might feel the same way – ‘Why are the media calling these people Muslims when a real follower of Mohammed wouldn’t act that way’.

        • I agree with Ian. People do fall away although we don’t know the details of what was meant when the media says one of them had previously been a Christian. I find it hard to believe that more than a few Christians who have truly encountered Jesus will turn to another religion.

          Most converts to Islam who become radicalised have been outside of the mainstream of their faith. Mehdi Hasan makes some good points on this in an article today:

        • Yes it is true people fall away from the pretense of false Christianity, but the Bible teaches these people were false Christians, who had never truely come to Christ. Many people think they are saved who aren’t. Jesus said “many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord’,…Then I will tell them ‘I never knew you.'”
          The fact that a genuine Christian, predestined, called and justified (Rom 8:30) can not lose salvation is shown by the doctrine of justification:once someone has truely repented and put their faith in Christ to save them, God justifies,i.e declares them legally not guilty. Once he has done that, God can not change his mind and declare someone guilty after all! The bible tells us that those with a genuine encounter with Christ will stay with Him to the end: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)
          My point is: the Woolwich murderer can not have been a genuine Christian, cos if he was God would have given him a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27) and new desires; to follow Christ to the end, not to turn to a false religion, and not to murder.

        • Hi Ian – haven’t forgotten my promise but needed opportunity to respond fully. In fact was going to have written yesterday but its morning and afternoon events ‘so happened’ to be relevant to my explanation. So rather than use this narrow, ‘nested’ box I’ll use a fresh one below – and hope not to take advantage of Gillan’s grace.

      • Good one Richard!

  2. It was an Islamic based attack. To pretend otherwise for your or others sensibilities is obtuse. For the Islamic community spokesmen to say nothing to do with us is obtuse. It is. Its as bad as if the Pope said child molesting priests were nothing to do with him. It is. Condemnation of evil acts is one thing. Ignoring where this evil comes from is another thing. Time for reflection and a real distancing from evil action. It was an act of terror in the same vein as the 9/11 act of terror. It was done to destroy and murder and it was done to make a point. Lets not be airy fairy about these brutal murders. They were planned, those who did it enjoyed it, and they stuck two fingers up at the people of the UK by filming it.

    • By the bye – I do not agree with the violent reaction against Muslims. Understandable as they are. Overreaction as they are. We all must stop and really ask what is going on and why.

    • Yes, to say that the attack had nothing to do with Islam is clearly wrong. The Muslim Council of Britain are perfectly at liberty to say that it has nothing to do with their understanding of Islam, but it is impossible to ignore the words the attackers used. When you look at the violence and oppression in other parts of the world with Islamist governments against non-Muslims, it’s very hard as an outsider to understand how Islam can be a religion of peace.

  3. It was an attack motivated by radical Islam, yes. That much was clear from the assailants’ own words at the scene. But how is it anything other than shoddy, irresponsible journalism for a BBC editor to parrot the meaningless phrase that he did. Unless they were actually dressed in some form of traditional islamic attire with beards (in which case, why not merely describe their appearance as a matter of fact?) it merely serves to reinforce idiotic stereotypes. I sincerely hope Nick Robinson will be censured by his employers for this.

  4. Awful pictures on the front pages today. Right where little uns could see. Horrible.

  5. What on earth does ‘Muslim in appearance’ mean? Islam is a religion, not a race. Unless they were women wearing headscarves, it’s hard to see how people could be Muslim in appearance.

    Disaffected minorities within minorities in a city is an age-old problem, and the whole community tends to get unfairly blamed. Before the Muslims, it was the Irish. Feeding the fire with racial and religious discrimination and stereotypes isn’t the answer, but I’m not sure just pretending there isn’t a dangerous, radicalised version of Islam is the answer either.

  6. I am grateful for this posting and the comments, some of which I would not endorse but which I recognise and which help to illustrate this is a complex and sad situation. I recall a prayer meeting in the week of 9/11 and the concept of the “War on Terror” had already emerged. It was clear then as it is today, that violence beghats violence. In the Woolwich area sadly all too many young men have taken and lost lives, this is in a different context perhaps, but we need to persuade our communities and our Governments to take seriously each drop of blood.

  7. In all this horrific mess, there is a glimmer of hope in the story. As details emerge of the brave women at the scene, my heart responds to their incredible humanitarian actions. In place of barbarism, they demonstrated love. Please check out my blog post on this… The Women of Woolwich – Let’s hear it for the women, over at

  8. Robert,

    I’m intrigued. Where did you go to theological college?

    And who ordained you, and by what rite, to qualify your use of the title Reverend?

  9. No, the media didn’t cover itself in glory. My guess is that the ITV coverage was all about being first! In the need the beat Sky, the Beeb and even YouTube, any editorial thought took a backseat to the need to get something out as fast as possible. Sadly, I can’t see anything other than this trend continuing!
    As to the “Muslim appearance” quote, that puzzled me too. Frankly, in a different context, you wouldn’t be able to guess their religion at all. From their looks, they might have just as well been Christian or even atheists! I suppose that, as we knew within minutes that they were indeed Muslims, it was a sloppy attempt to say “apparently Muslim”. But whatever the true explanation you are right. It was, at the very least, not helpful.
    Was it right to report them as Muslim so early? It was factually correct. The horrific “bloody hands” video has a couple of quotes or paraphrases from the Qur’an (to the Muslim poster above, the “eye for an eye” is also in the Qur’an), he referred to Allah and to “our land” (which is an interesting insight into Islamist thinking for those labouring the fact that they were UK born).
    Was it helpful? Did it contribute to the EDF response or the other anti-Muslim acts later? At the least, it would be good to hope that the BBC, ITV and the rest might take a moment to think about it.
    Sadly, I doubt very much if that will happen.

  10. Yes, Mehdi Hasan makes interesting points Gillan. In Jan ‘92 the BBC gave news of the MCB’s call for a Muslim Parliament in Britain, so his news of their unreserved condemnation of last week’s atrocity is indeed most welcome.

    However, this political director is being ‘economical with the truth’. Allow me to offer a necessary clarification because Hasan is guilty of what he blames others for; cutting and pasting verses from the Koran out of context! (So Parveen’s point falls too, and his reference to ‘eye for and eye’ as from the Bible may also be taken as from Qu’ran Sura 5:45 – it’s a cross-ref to the Torah.)

    In his opening sentence, Huffington’s director blanks out the caveat about murder within Sura 5:32 with his own reference to that reference! He should have quoted it in full – as well as its immediately following verse to get the full context.

    That is, Hasan missed out after ‘killeth a human being’, ‘for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth’. The next verse contains the Qur’anic command to kill and under what authority. And it prescribes how to kill ‘those who make war upon Allah and his messenger and strive after corruption in the earth…’ (and their post-mortem doom!).

    Robert Spencer succinctly explains how that ‘scripture’ may be directly applied to the Woolwich scenario and thus refutes Hasan’s caveat about permissible Jihad as being “false in terms of Islamic law”. [See and check these verses in Pickthall’s translation – click radio button to choose fixed or ‘hover over’ translation box .]

    The Telegraph is identical to Huffington Post, and I note its sub-title reads ‘The two suspects were violating the doctrine of their own holy book’. That claim is now seen to be misleading, thereby giving rise to doubts over Hasan’s accuracy and credibility as a journalist.

    Furthermore, Hasan’s being ‘economical with the truth’ would follow the doctrine of ‘Taqiyya’ (‘the prevention’, Sura 3:27). That is, dissimulation under the guise of religiously sanctioned lying whenever expedient to protect Islam, or a Muslim’s well-being, against unbelievers. This principle of deliberate lying is completely contrary to all Judeo-Christian teaching and thus not grasped and overlooked by journalists, politicians and diplomats of Christian nations. The ex-Muslim founder of Barnabas Fund covers Taqiyya in several articles, especially in The Controversy Over Terrorist Terminology (2007)

    In view of his extensive expertise, therefore, I’d suggest Dr Sookhdeo is a more reliable source on these issues.

  11. Ian – thanks for your patience and I hope this may answer your comments:

    First, it’s important to stress my respect and brotherly love for all Muslims as people of faith. (I found they’re more open minded on divine healing than atheists I encountered.) I know Jesus loves them and is showing himself to many. So they get to know the truth about Him direct and become believers. All my comments about Islam are in that light and purely for the sake of intellectual and spiritual analysis.

    To arrive at the conclusion about Christianity that you suggest would require a quick scan void of proper comprehension of the Bible. However, awareness of medieval church/state history may warrant that notion! (We both know the heart of Christianity is what Jesus taught and did.)

    Scholarly reviews of religion are useful but it’s hard to surpass the informed writings of ex-Muslims. One such ex-militant’s book, From Jihad to Jesus, soundly compares the facts about the scriptures and founders of Christianity and of Islam, even its pagan source – quite a contrast! So your reference to David is a bit of a red-herring, and neither David or Mo’ were perfect. The first lived about 3,000 years ago and the latter 1,400 years, BUT his extremist followers want to turn the whole world back to the Dark Ages! The western church-cum-state’s power as a tyrannical overlord was broken by the Reformation and Age of Enlightenment/Science. Perhaps sensible Muslims will deliver the same for their political religion? Many hope so…

    Yes, there’s been millennia of tribal warfare in the M-East and Arabian world. Interesting to note descendants of the Israelites’ bitter foes, the Amalekites, established Medina. (Biblical students would grasp the significance of this: see p135 Mosques & Miracles, S Robinson.) It was after Mo’s move there that saw many revisions or ‘abrogations’ to the Qur’an and its warfare aspects developed with his engaging in dozens of battles – and continued with his followers fighting amongst themselves as Sunni and Shia Muslims.

    You queried a ‘causal link’ for murders but I didn’t imply such in referring to a likely link between the Parliamentary vote and Woolwich outrage.

    From the first chapters of the Bible the link between sin and its consequences is clearly highlit. Moses spelled out the details more fully in promised ‘blessings and curses’ for following God’s statutes (Deut 28-30). Apostle Paul succinctly re-stated that as, “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows…” (Ephesians 6:7-10), and “…in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).

    Therefore, our choices have consequences for good or ill, the tapestry of which gets woven into our lives and society. Imho, where rulers and leaders rebel against God’s ordinances the reaping will be faster and more noticeable, as in these ‘accelerating times’.

    Finally, and if you appreciate Holy Spirit’s prophetical gifting, you may like to consider entries under 1991 and 2005 regarding the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks in my post here:

    Or, you may want a scientific aspect as suggested by a 11-year cyclical effect upon 9/11, as well the Boston Marathon outrage, both of which are covered in

    I hope this may help and thanks for the stimulating points, which I’d like to address more fully on my blog and link into yesterday’s informative events.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for taking the time to respond so fully. I don’t understand why you have dismissed my comment about David. My view is that it is vital to understand the role of those from Adam to Christ including David in the Salvation landscape of Christianity. Without this back story we would not have a fore story. The link back to Abraham for both Christianity and Islam is vital if we are to see why we share such an important heritage. The problem I have with implying that a vote in Parliament on one day could lead to an atrocity on the following day (or at least that it led to God removing his hand of protection) is that this and the reference to some of the other ‘prophecies’ and other events is at best speculative. I fully accept that God speaks to us on many issues and believe passionately in the role of the prophetic, but we are a cloth eared people and far too easily hear what it is convenient to hear. Sadly despite our rich heritage we do not appear to apply the same scrutiny to the Arms Race including the replacement of Trident, or to the environmental damage of the earth, or people trafficking as some do to issues of human sexuality. Perhaps if we did we would be better placed to understand the heart of God in its wholeness.

  12. Thanks for your reply Ian, and for bearing with me. I agree with your viewpoint, validity of which may be seen in my refc to Medina. With respect however, historical comparisons aren’t vital for resolution of today’s critical issue and so I thought your comment wasn’t quite apposite. (No offence intended.)

    My point is that the diametrically opposed nature of the two religions and of their founders indicates the root cause of this on-going issue, and of which Parveen gave an illustration within this thread – plus increasing persecutions of Christians in Muslim-dominated lands! Imo, wilful ignorance of this root by past and present politicians exacerbates the issue. Maybe their cultural background locks them into looking elsewhere for a handle on it. And so they persist in failing to get a grip (eg. the ‘Prevent ‘initiative’).

    I understand your ref to ‘speculative’ connections; hence my interest in a more scientific, or observational, collation of ‘coincidental’ Biblically-related events, as done by a couple of investigators with over 45 yrs data between them. (It’s occurrence in 1938 version of Hurricane Sandy was one’s motivator!) The ‘causality’ of classical Newtonian science couldn’t explain the complex mix of human freewill and its consequential results, along with demonic interference and operation of God’s laws and His sovereign intervention. (Maybe the dynamics of quantum theory will become helpful in following such threads?) Even so, some prophetic insights have proven accuracy, as with incidents leading to 2008 economic crash (

    My own experience in the prophetic is that it can be rolled out over several years or a few weeks, or even within one day when the Lord puts His finger on something (as last Wed). So my observation on the Parliament/Woolwich connection could be either speculative supposition or revelatory insight. Guess we’ll know one day, I pray.


  1. The Woolwich murder coverage – not the media’s finest hour | God and Politics in the UK | THINKING: Middle of the road Libertarian? Maybe...
%d bloggers like this: