"You ain't no sympathiser with mental illness, bruv!"

On December 5th (my birthday, incidentally), 29-year-old Muhaydin Mire of Leytonstone attacked three passengers on the London Underground using a 3-inch knife. The attack, which took place at Leytonstone Station, left one victim with serious injuries and the other two with minor stab wounds. At the height of the assault, the perpetrator was heard to say, "This is for Syria" and "blood will be spilled", leading police, the media and the public to interpret the attack as a "terrorist incident". In response to Mire's words, one man was heard to shout, "you ain't no Muslim, bruv", prompting the hashtag #YouAin'tNoMuslimBruv, which denounced those who use the Islamic faith as a reason for their violent behaviour, to trend on Twitter. The Guardian noted that the phrase was "a perfect riposte to attempts to spread violence and terror in London", while The Independent stated that "the phrase has become a unifying call among people condemning the attack on social media", and David Cameron remarked that, " Some of us have dedicated speeches and media appearances and sound-bites and everything to this subject, but 'you ain't no Muslim, bruv' says it all, much better then I ever could, and thank you because that will be applauded all around the country." Imam Imran Patel of Leytonstone Mosque said that Mire was not a member of his congregation, and that "we strongly condemn any sort of violence and terrorism". Only the local Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, John Cryer, while describing the attack as "barbaric", urged caution in linking it to British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, saying that to do so would be "dangerous".
Indeed, in the seeming headlong rush to see what happened as a terrorist incident, what was seemingly overlooked was that Muhaydin Mire had a history of mental illness. In an interview on Channel 4 News, Mire's family told of how he had been admitted to hospital in 2007, spending three months there to be treated for paranoia. His brother went on to say how the traits of his illness seemed to re-emerge only a few months before the attack, and of how when working as an Uber driver in London Muhaydin had started to call him and say unusual things, such as that he was seeing demons and being followed. His brother stated that the content of these calls was not to do with any sort of radicalisation, but rather only "talking nonsense". The family then sought to get Muhaydin urgent medical help, but with little success. He was seen by the police in October and the family tried to have him sectioned only a month before the attack. Unfortunately it appears that little was done, with Muhaydin being left to get worse and ultimately commit the aforesaid offences.
It seems to me, then, that this is as much a story about a broken and demoralised mental health service which allows people to become so unwell that they represent a danger to either themselves or others, as much as it is a story of ISIS-inspired terrorism. But, the full facts of the case are not yet known, and whether Mire had indeed become radicalised is yet to be seen. For the moment, though, it would seem sensible, at least to me, to be reticent with any talk of terrorism. One supposes that because of what he said during the attack, the police can't rule out any possibility, and one feels for the victims innocently caught up in the melee, but the state of mind Mire was in at the time of the incident must surely bring about the question of whether there was true belief and intent behind his words, or if they were merely the rantings of someone who had become dangerously unwell. After Paris it would appear that we were all too ready for such an attack, and really, one also feels for the family of Muhaydin, who tried desperately to get him help, and who now see a man they love not only branded with the appellation "mentally ill", but also the demon "terrorist".              


bazza said…
Hello David. Firstly, I would like to wish you a belated Happy Birthday!
This post is a beautiful encapsulation and summing up of what happened in Leytonstone. One other point that comes to mind is the use of the word 'radicalisation' as if it were a contagious disease, something one might 'catch'by being too near the wrong person. It seems to me that it is used as though it were interchangeable with 'brainwashing'. I find this hard to accept because it assumes that those who have become radicalised had no choice.
Incidentally, I took at referral at work (I think you know I am in the local IAPT service) from a woman who witnessed the whole scene in Leytonstone. She thought that she was OK until she went to work on the following Monday and 'freaked out' as she approached the station where the incident happened. A very sad tale.
Have a good weekend David.
David said…
Hi bazza,
Apologies for my delayed response and thank you for your birthday wishes.
I agree that radicalisation is seen as a kind of brainwashing. While those who succumb to it obviously do have a choice, it does seem that they are mostly, in some way, vulnerable people - those who feel alienated from society or have some kind of personal issues. Perhaps it's easier for those who seek to recruit people to their cause to target such people. On the other hand, the families of such people often appear to have no clue that their relative harbours such feelings or thoughts and indeed, they seem outwardly okay, so there doesn't appear to be any easy answers.
In the case of Mire, however, I do think it a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to immediately say that he was one such individual, when, as I say in my post, he had a history of mental illness which was fully recognised by his family. While one would never, then, condone what happened, and one feels for the victims (such as the lady you mention in your comment), the explanation for it could turn out to have little to do with terrorism or radicalisation. I know it's no great advert for those with mental illness either, but it still seems hasty to brand him a terrorist when we know of his unwell past.
Thanks for your continued interest, bazza, and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Very Best Wishes,
klahanie said…
Greetings, illustrious David,

Barry has summed up, rather nicely, what I would of mostly stated in my own comment. I also recall us discussing your thought provoking posting during our recent phone conversation. And the cruel irony of this situation is that the man in question hasn't received the help he needed. Another case of this awful government not understanding that mental health well being is a fragile state. To have this government compound the problem via lack of funding, of closing of vital mental health facilities, just beggars belief.

You are a good bruv, bruv.

Here's to 2016 and hopefully, a better, more compassionate reality.

Dixie@dcrelief said…
Hi David,

I remember reading about this incident but there were things that didn't add up, if he was a terrorist, indeed. So here we are, and I now know the backdrop from your post. Makes me angry yet, afraid because the media thrives on lies. Of course, governments must really love the spin. It keeps them from taking their part in the responsibility.

Happy belated Birthday, and Christmas wishes. Fortunately I'm here to say, Happy 2016!

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