His nickname, which clearly had racist undertones, was the “Black Ade.” His upbringing in rural England and Wales suggests he had inept ‘conflict resolution’ techniques that led to him being convicted for criminal damage, grievous bodily harm, a spell in prison and a suspended sentence for knife possession. That’s the profile of the murderer, Khalid Masood, who went on the rampage last Wednesday killing three people and injuring up to 50.
As usual the media are trying to work within the framework of a popularised false narrative. Their investigation centres around the “conveyor belt theory” that the criminal is radicalised, perhaps in jail, and then takes on the ideology of jihad which drives him to carry out a crime inspired by a terrorist group.
However, academic research, time and time again, reveals that an individual with a pre-existing condition of violence or for extremism or who is dysfunctional is more likely to latch on to an ideology that suits his disposition and can give him some justification for his violent acts. In other words, religious extremism is not the driver for violent acts but violence or the propensity to violent acts drive religious extremism!
It may, therefore, be convenient for the security forces, the police and the media to ignore the parts of the jigsaw puzzle that do not fit the atypical profile or the narrative which explains the making of the so called “Islamist terrorist”. Not least that the Westminster killer was 52 years old and has never stood on a platform or join an extremist group that espouses religious bigotry. Throughout his whole 15-minute murder spree there are no reports that he shouted the terrorist mantra “Allahu Akbar” or claim, at any point, that he was performing an act of God!
Instead, there is a gloss over the fact that Masood seems to have spent his life reacting violently to the racism that appeared to be a feature of his life. In a revealing conversation with the Guardian, a former pub landlady described Masood as, “very intelligent but always slightly sinister.” Alice Williams, who knew him while landlady of the Rose and Crown pub near Rye said, “He would do the Telegraph crossword and, to be fair, would make intelligent conversation but he was a bit racist. He always had a chip on his shoulder.”
The ‘chip on the shoulder’ idiom dictionary definition refers to the act of holding a grudge or grievance that readily provokes disputation or to seem angry all the time because you think you have been treated unfairly. It is an accusation that Black people of Masood’s generation would have heard with great frequency. The phrase was commonly used against Black people who object to racism and were prepared to challenge bigoted views, verbally or otherwise.
Whilst the picture of Masood reversion to Islam are not clear, there remains many unanswered questions about the type of Islam that he practiced and the people he associated with. The claim that many ‘reverts’ move into violent extremism is another narrative that the media are attempting to fit Masood into.
However, more than a decade after he reverted, it seems unlikely that a new-found zeal for extremism was the impetus for the murderous spree. Rather, it seems Masood became unhinged and in the words of Judge Charles Kemp who sentenced him to two years in jail for his violent assault, “The reality is that you lost your temper and went beyond the bounds of what is reasonable.”