British ambassador to US on workplace violence vs. terror

Are we being too P.C.?


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, the prosecutor in the Oklahoma beheading case filing notice that he plans to seek the death penalty again Alton Nolen. He is the 30-year-old, as you know, accused of decapitating co-worker Colleen Hufford after being suspended from his job.

Now, workers say he was trying to convert them to Islam, the incident being treated as workplace violence, but not terror. Should it be?

Let's ask Sir Peter Westmacott. He is the Britain ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador, very good to have you.


CAVUTO: Without getting involved in our politics here or anything, Ambassador, why did in Britain it didn't take long at all for you to look at that killing of that soldier as an act of terror? What is the difference?

WESTMACOTT: We saw the killing of our soldier indeed as an act of terror. I'm not sure I fully understood the question.

But this was something carried out in broad daylight by people who appeared to be motivated in some way by ISIL or by some kind of Islamic terrorist group. And it shocked the people of Britain, just as the people of Britain have been shocked by the beheadings we have seen and that the fact that beheader appears to be somebody of British origin.

So, as far as we're concerned, this is all part of horrendous terrorist activity.

CAVUTO: Now, Ambassador, we're not quite convinced here that it's official reaction to this incident in the United States that, yes, this guy allegedly was trying to convert fellow workers to Islam. He did have a beef with those who resisted him.

Then he goes and beheads a co-worker, allegedly. But they're not calling that an act of terror. It is workplace violence incident. What do you think of that?

WESTMACOTT: Well, I understand that.

But, as you say, this is a debate which goes into semantics. I think the important thing is to focus on the brutality and the awfulness of what happened to that poor individual and his family.

But what it's called by whom, by one person or another, I don't think it's something for me to comment upon. Focus on how terrible it is and the importance of all of us in coming together to try to change the narrative, to get to people to understand, especially those who sometimes commit crimes in the name of something they call their faith, that this is light years removed from any respectable faith that any of us believe in.

CAVUTO: You know, Ambassador, we have had a number of incidents in this country of late that at least raise the prospect that these were concerted religious-type attacks or terror attacks.

But we're very, as you say, maybe semantics or otherwise, loathe to characterize them as such because we don't want to scare people. One of the reasons I'm given off the record from a lot of folks in Washington is that they don't want to scare people.

Is there anything to be gained from that? I mean, when you decided in Britain that this killing, which was a different case because obviously it was caught on videotape and we saw what this crazy guy doing, that might have changed it a little bit.

But was there ever any concern that by quickly characterizing it as you did it then that it would scare Brits?

WESTMACOTT: I don't think so.

What we're dealing with at the moment is something which is unfortunately international that does not respect borders. We have got an issue in Iraq and Syria at the moment which is as much about what we have call foreign fighters as it is about the horrible things that are being done to the people who live in those countries.

We have got people from all of our countries, America, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany, all sorts of different countries, who are unfortunately radicalized and believe that this is something that they want to take part of -- part in and that, in some ways, that it's linked to a faith.

We dispute that. We don't think this has got anything to do with any religion. And that's what the vast majority of the Muslims in my country feel too. But what you call it, whether it's a terrorist act or an act of unspeakable brutality, I think as far as public opinion in Britain is concerned, it doesn't make all that much difference.

The important thing is to change the culture, change the views of those people who believe this is somehow the right thing to do or an acceptable response to their own demons.

CAVUTO: I don't know if you have the equivalent, Ambassador, of racial profiling or even religious profiling there, that is something that has been sworn off here as not a way to go, that we wouldn't screen or look any differently at a Muslim group than we would any other group in trying to look or chase down this type of activity.

What do you think of that?

WESTMACOTT: I would say that when we're looking at this kind of horrible criminal activity, we have got to look at the facts, we have got at the crime itself, and that reality is that in all of our countries, some of the most awful things are committed by a wide diversity of individuals, irrespective of what you call racial profiling, of ethnic origin or whatever religion they profess.

I think -- we think that it's not a helpful thing to do. The important thing is to look at each individual crime, each person, and to try to stop people doing this kind of thing, to change the belief, the narrative, the psychology they have adopted, and, of course, when these terrible things do happen, to ensure that we come down with the full force of justice on the people responsible.

CAVUTO: I'm sorry, sir, but I didn't understand that response. Does that mean that you wouldn't look more askance at Muslims in your country, since a lot of the more violent incidents of late have been perpetrated by Muslims?

WESTMACOTT: I'm saying -- I'm saying that we're not going to get into the business of suggesting that any one group is more or less likely to commit a crime.

We look at crimes on the basis of the actions undertaken by the individual, regardless of their origin or their ethnicity or where they have come from or who they are.

CAVUTO: All right. Ambassador, thank you very, very much. We appreciate it.

WESTMACOTT: Thank you.

CAVUTO: All right.

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