NEW DELHI: Jo Cox, a 41 year old Labour party member of the British parliament was stabbed and shot to death on Thursday outside the library in Birstall, West Yorkshire. The killing is the first of a Member of Parliament in over two decades and has understandably taken Britain by shock. All campaigning for the June 23 referendum on Britain’s European Union membership has been suspended. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted saying, “The death of Jo Cox is a tragedy. She was a committed and caring MP. My thoughts are with her husband Brendan and her two young children.” Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader also came out and said, “Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve.”

Early reports are sketchy; however, they indicate that a 52 year old man named Thomas Mair has been arrested. A profile on The Guardian highlights Mair as a quiet and polite individual who possibly had a history of mental problems. Two eyewitnesses have reported that the assailant yelled, “Britain First, Britain First” as he went on kicking and stabbing Cox. Britain First among others could be a reference to a far-right British nationalist political party. It has actively campaigned against immigration as it sees it leading to the supposed Islamisation of Britain. The party has vociferously supported leaving the European Union in the coming referendum, something that Jo Cox was campaigning against as she, along with other Labour MP’s called for Britain to remain in the EU.

The police have reportedly said that they are not looking at any more suspects, meaning Hair was acting alone. If this is proven to be an act of hate crime as increasingly looks likely, it will cast a tall shadow on Britain’s security establishment. Questions are already being raised among the general public about the use of firearms as the shooting comes in the context of the harrowing incident in Orlando just 5 days ago. The larger question here though is one that possibly drove the killer towards targeting Cox, the issue of immigration and the role of immigrants in an increasingly multicultural British society. The refugee crisis alongside the EU referendum debate has opened up societal cleavages throughout Britain as nationalist parties, led by Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independent Party lead the inflammatory rhetoric that habitually borders on Islamophobia and xenophobia.

In her short career as an MP, Cox had carved out a niche for herself as a politician that extolled the virtues of humanity and peace. In her maiden speech to the parliament in 2015, she said, “Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

While in April this year on a debate concerning the fate of 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian children, Cox remarked, “I recognise that this is not easy, but tonight we are being asked to make a decision that transcends party politics. Any member who has seen the desperation and fear on the faces of children trapped in inhospitable camps across Europe must surely feel compelled to act. I urge them tonight to be brave and bold.”

Such statements have been rare in the context of a British society that continues to be in the hangover of their lost empire and has started to view all immigrants with a suspecting eye, reflected in the fact that the above amendment on the Syrian children was not passed in the parliament. The incident also raises question on the behavior of the politicians during the ongoing debate that has seen absurd levels of mudslinging by both sides. This was epitomized by a poster released by UKIP yesterday itself that showed Britain on the breaking point due to immigration. Such acts have only served to acutely polarize the British society to an extreme level that cost Cox her life.

It has been a excruciatingly painful week for humanity as the world grapples with two of the many instances of mindless hatred that have scarily come to characterize modern, multicultural societies. The incidents, as much as they are about gun control, immigration and homophobia; something very simple continues to be at its heart. It is how we come to perceive and treat “the other” in this increasingly globalised world order at the social, political and economic level that drives the larger institutional structures that often emerge to fuel and sustain the bigotry. Cox’s husband Brendan summed up the cry in a statement he delivered shortly after the killing, “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love, and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.” It is up to us to respect that demand now.