The tragic murder of Jo Cox MP in her Batley and Spen constituency last Thursday was horrific for her family and friends, and sent shockwaves throughout the country and even internationally. Heartfelt tributes to Jo have poured in from all sides, from those closest to her all the way to the US President Barack Obama. Such universal admiration proves what a wonderful person and public servant she was. Whilst it is crucial we remember her life for what it was, bringing help and hope to those in need, we must also remember to look to the future in her memory.
The brutal murder of Jo Cox was an act of hatred and terror
In her husband Brendan’s statement following her death, he called for us to “unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.” The sentence following I think is particularly telling: “Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.” The brutal murder of Jo Cox was an act of hatred and terror. If initial reports of the attacker yelling ‘Britain first’ or ‘put Britain first’ were not enough, more evidence has come to light in the past few days to indicate the political charge to the attack. Thomas Mair, the only suspect, in court yesterday, when asked to confirm his name, stated: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” There are also reports that after a search of his home in Birstall many incriminating items were found associating him to US neo-Nazis and more.
The issue I find with the handling of the attack in the media and in general is that it has thus far been labelled simply as a ‘murder’. It was a horrific murder, but it has political connotations as well. It is, in short, an act of terror. The Oxford Dictionary defines terrorism as ‘the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.’ The murder of Jo Cox was exactly this – an act of extreme violence in the name of a political cause, namely British nationalism. This crucial aspect of the crime cannot go unmentioned in the subsequent police investigation.
The anti-immigration, anti-immigrant hysteria sweeping across Britain
I will go back to the quote from Brendan Cox on the universality of hate: terrorists can be from any background. Although this is just supposition, I believe, sadly, that if the attacker had been a Muslim and shouted something to do with Isis or Islam after the attack it would have been labelled immediately as an act of terror without any investigation into the real motives, as the Orlando shooting was. Why is Jo Cox’s death any different? The political motivation of the attack must be recognised in order to deal with the loss of a truly inspirational woman and politician, and to honour what she stood for.
It is unclear whether the attacker is actually associated with Britain First, the far right British nationalist political party, but that does not undermine the politics of his motives in attacking Jo Cox. The attack was fuelled by an extremist interpretation – the anti-immigration, anti-immigrant hysteria sweeping across Britain in the build up to the EU referendum.
Britain is a diverse society, something we should be proud of rather than running from
As a country we must unite in Jo’s name to stop this frenzy from overtaking the real political issues and the memory of Britain’s rich history in accepting people of all backgrounds. Britain took in children after the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, we took in thousands fleeing from the Holocaust and World War II. Why should the 21st Century be any different? Britain is a diverse society, something we should be proud of rather than running from. Immigration is invoked consistently by the Brexiteers – why not consider it as an issue for the Remain campaign as well. Immigration strengthens Britain politically, economically, and culturally, so let’s embrace it whole-heartedly in the lead up to this referendum.
Campaigning for the EU has been halted in respect for Jo and her family, and even when it recommences it will be coloured by what happened last Thursday. I hope it will take a more restrained, respectful tone than what we have thus far experienced. It will certainly be interesting to see how the handling of immigration will change in the Leave camp, as they cannot ignore the nationalistic connotations of the attack of 16th June.
Whilst we as a nation mourn Jo Cox and her death, we must not let the hatred that killed her take centre stage in British politics. In her honour we must ignore the fear mongering and overcome the dark mark it is leaving on Britain. We must continue to fight for what Jo believed in above all else – humanitarianism and helping our fellow human no matter what their background.