Neil Masterson, the suspect in the attack on British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, is to appear at Hammersmith Magistrates Court on Monday. Galloway, the Respect Party representative for Bradford West, was posing for pictures with supporters when he was attacked by Masterson on Friday. The incident left the 61 year old, six times elected politician with a badly bruised face, a broken jaw and a broken rib.
Masterson is charged with “religiously aggravated assault”, while he also faces charges of common assault for his attack on a passer-by who attempted to intervene. The attack is believed to be linked to Galloway’s outspoken support for Palestine. During the incident, the assailant reportedly compared Galloway to Hitler, and referenced the Holocaust. On social media sites, Masterson has framed himself as a Catholic Zionist and anti-Islamic, and in the hours before the attack he reportedly threatened to slit Galloway’s throat on Facebook.
The last violent attack on an MP was the stabbing of Stephen Timms in 2010 by a Muslim woman in revenge for the Iraq war- Timms had voted in favour of the war. Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke commented on the incident, “I am completely shocked by what has happened to my friend Stephen.” He added, “The whole Treasury team wishes him the very best and we hope he will make a speedy recovery.” Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said: “One of the great strengths of the British political system is the everyday accessibility of MPs to their constituents but we can’t have a situation where MPs are at risk. Parliament needs to consider how best to ensure MPs can carry out their responsibilities safely.” A Downing Street spokesman said that Prime Minister David Cameron was aware of the incident, adding: “He expressed his concern and offered his best wishes and asked to be kept closely informed.”
Galloway has not received one public message of sympathy from a single MP from any party, nor has the Prime Minister’s Office made a comment on the brutal attack of a politician in the streets of London. There’s has been an alarming silence. If the attacker had been a pro-Palestinian supporter would the response have been different? Would the attacker be referred to as a “terrorist”? A fundraising page has been launched to cover Masterson’s legal costs – it has already raised nearly 4,000 USD in one day. Would that page still be allowed to run if the legal costs it covered was not for a Catholic who committed a violent crime in the name of Zionism, but instead a Muslim who committed a crime in the name of Islam?
The attack on Timms was considered by many to be the first terror attack to injure someone on the UK mainland since the July 2005 bombings. Terrorist attacks are defined by the UK’s security agency MI5 as:”the use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public, or a section of the public; made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause; and it involves or causes”- this includes serious violence against a person. If the silence over the attack on Galloway continues, and is not condemned as the attack on Timms was, it will perpetuate the belief that only when the assailant is Muslim, are such attacks cause for concern.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.