Why Jo Cox Killer Thomas Mair is a Terrorist

Thomas Mair house
A police officer stands outside the home of Thomas Mair, killer of murdered MP Jo Cox. Craig Brough/Reuters

What does a man shouting "This is for Britain" and another claiming "through many passages in the Koran we must fight them as they fight us" have in common? A bloodied knife, for a start. A burning belief in their own convictions, and a message delivered in such an inept and crude fashion that it would be farcical if the result had not been so tragic.

The first man, Thomas Mair, was convicted on Wednesday of the murder of the MP Jo Cox. At his first appearance in court, he gave his name as "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain." We might assume that Cox was, in Thomas Mair's eyes, one such traitor.

The second man, Michael Adebolajo, along with fellow extremist Michael Adebowale, brutally murdered British Army soldier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich Barracks three years ago. Both of Rigby's killers are now in prison and are utterly unrepentant. For them, their actions took place as part of a legitimate campaign to prevent and avenge the perceived atrocities carried out by British forces in the Middle East. As a member of these forces, Rigby was considered guilty by association.

It is this misplaced verdict of indiscriminate, corporate guilt that unites these two cases of terrorism and, let us be absolutely clear, Mair is as much a terrorist as Adebolajo. No doubt some of what has been said by Mair's family is true: perhaps he normally "wouldn't hurt a fly," and I am sure he could sometimes be the kind man his mixed-race half-brother believed him to be. That isn't the point.

Terrorism and terrorist ideologies aren't a problem because they stop the perpetrators from being human; they are a problem because they stop the perpetrators from seeing others as human.

For Michael Adebolajo, Lee Rigby ceased to be a human when he joined the British Army. In his mind, the Coalition's campaigns were a direct attack on his people and his religion. That Lee Rigby had probably never killed a Muslim (and if he had, it would have certainly been far fewer than, say, the Taliban) was irrelevant: he belonged to an organisation that Adebolajo believed had harmed his brothers and sisters. To kill Rigby would be to avenge all the wrongs done to "his" community by the kufar Western Power.

Cox, equally, seems to have been considered culpable for harming a group dear to the heart of her murderer: the people of her own country.

By supporting immigration to Britain, working in foreign aid agencies and collaborating with a multinational body, the EU, to a certain kind of mind, Cox might have shown her blatant disregard for her own people in the pan-global race war.

That Jo Cox had never done any of these things, that her adult life had been dedicated to the alleviation of suffering both here and abroad–that there is, in fact, no such thing as a "race-war"–does not matter. But in the twisted mind of those swayed by neo-Nazi ideology there is. After all, hadn't the world seen what happened to Lee Rigby? Here, in Britain, on our own streets.

Here we can see the tragic, violent circularity of the extremist agenda. In perpetrating atrocities they supply other extremists—even those whom they profess to diametrically oppose—with material evidence to justify their own actions.

For example, in 2010 Michael Adebolajo attended a counter-protest at a neo-Nazi rally; there he saw a side of Britain that despised and condemned him and all those of his race and religion. There is a clear symbiosis between Islamist extremism and far-right extremism, both feeding off and justifying one another.

For now, in the context of Jo Cox's trial, we must remember that extremism is harmful, and that no matter how far-fetched the theories of extremists may appear, they do hold weight in the minds of some and they do bring about real harm in the world.

Why is her white neo-Nazi killer not described as a terrorist motivated by extremist ideology? After all, extremism flourishes in a grim parasitical dialectic of atrocity and counter-atrocity. We can mourn the dead, extol the bravery of those who tried to intervene and lament the unfathomable cruelty of it all.

But unless we stem the violence at its source, unless we challenge ideas, and not just the actions of those influenced by them, we can never truly hope to prevent these ghastly terrorist attacks from happening again.

We must engage boldly and decisively with these ideas; the lives of those killed shows just what may happen if we do not.

Adam Deen is Managing Director of Quilliam U.K.