London has been a strange place to live in this past week. The city the Blitz could not beat – we’re patriotically reminded – has been an edgy ball of confusion and shell-shocked, soul-searching after the grisly murder on an off-duty soldier in Woolwich. So-called retaliatory attacks have seen racists throwing petrol bombs at mosques and defacing their walls with badly-spelt Islamaphobic slogans. The English Defence League and British National Party thugs wasted no time in capitalising on the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. Other debates have focused on the cause of the attacks. Was it Islam or was it a blow-back for Western foreign policy in the Middle East? As usual, the attackers have been dubbed as an uniquely Islamic problem, with most journalists all too happy to shut down debate about the causes for radicalisation among young Muslims in Britain – among them, colonialist wars in the Arab world and our unflinching support for Israel’s crimes in Palestine. The main problem with this week’s coverage is that if the attack had been carried out by a Christian or a Jew, we would not be talking about terrorism. The news would have been full of headlines of “brutal murder” and “passers-by stunned,” but never terrorism. That word is reserved almost solely for Muslims. But were these men terrorists? Two men, claiming to be acting in the name of Islam and Muslims everywhere, butchered Lee Rigby in the street on a suburban high street on Wednesday afternoon. Videos showing the killer’s blood-soaked hands gesticulating their way around an anti-Western justification for the violence shocked many. Literally minutes after the attack took place, television reporters and politicians alike were calling the scene an “act of terror.” This was only exacerbated by BBC political editor Nick Robinson who hastily reported the attackers as being “of Muslim appearance,” a lazy little phrase which conjured up a very particular sort of image when put next to the word “terrorism.” Robinson later redacted his inaccuracy but the damage was well done. As breaking news has turned into analysis, shocked tweets into obituaries, the ugly word has remained. Does butchering one person in the street constitute an act of terror though? Commentators justifying their choice of language said that the horrific nature of the attack had been intended to sow terror into onlookers both in the street and the country itself. And yet the main killer and self-chosen spokesman, named as Michael Adebolajo, seemed a little more contrite than the press would allow us to think. “I apologise that women had to see this today,” he says. “But in our lands our women have to see the same.” It’s a relativism of violence that Glenn Greenwald rightly picked up on in The Guardian the day after the incident. His argument? If Adebolajo is a terrorist, then so are the US covert ops agents who massacred the Afghan village of Gardez, killing pregnant women and children before cutting out the bullets with knives to hide the evidence. Not so much hiding the evidence as violating the dignity of half-dead civilians to move it somewhere for safe keeping. If a horrendously bloody knife attack sows terror into the hearts and minds of a civilian population, so too does a signature drone strike on a lazy-day barbecue of Yemeni teenagers – just like the one that killed 16-year-old US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in 2011. If we’re not willing to accept that the crimes carried out in the name of democracy and freedom are morally equivalent to those witnessed on London’s streets this week then we have to interrogate the language with which we describe them. Until then, all Muslims are terrorists and the rest of us are all hypocrites. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.