Thursday, 23 March 2017
Tragedy strikes Europe.
Yesterday afternoon, on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks from last year, London was on the end of a terrorist assault. According to the BBC, Three people have died and at least 40 have been injured after an attacker drove a car along a pavement in Westminster, stabbed a policeman and was shot dead by police in the grounds of Parliament.
The dead police officer - who was unarmed as the attacker charged over and stabbed him - is known as PC Keith Palmer, aged 48, a husband and a father. His former colleague in the Royal Artillery and Conservative MP James Cleverly, paid tribute to him by describing him as a "lovely man".
Another victim has been named as 43 year old, mother of two and Spanish language teacher, Aysha Frade. Aysha was mowed down by a the grey Hyundai 4x4 as she walked over Westminster Bridge to collect her two daughters, aged 8 and 11.
The third victim was American tourist Kurt Cochran, who was on the final day holiday with his wife celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when he was killed.
At least 40 people are known to have been injured. Among them twelve Britons, four South Koreans, three French youngsters on a school trip, two Romanians, two Greeks, one German, one Polish national, one Irish citizen, one American citizen, one Chinese and one Italian.
This attack was an act of Islamist terrorism, ISIS recently claimed responsibility, praising the attacker - a British born jihadist named Khalid Masood- as a "soldier of the Islamic state". However, it remains to be seen whether the attack was directed by ISIS , or inspired by them. It seems more likely that it was the latter, not the former.
As usual, after every one of these tragedies, we subject ourselves to the same rituals we always go through. It really is tiring and immensely frustrating to see one side act as if there is no problem, or if they do they severely simplify and misdiagnose the problem, while the other side will exploit what is a legitimate issue in order to spread bigotry, hatred and unneccessary, irrational fear.
I write this first and foremost as a human being, who has a sense of empathy, compassion and solidarity with my fellow creatures. In the aftermath of every terrorist attack, All of my thoughts and condolences are with the victims and their families, before anything else. They are the ones whose lives have been taken from them, unable to ever embrace their parents, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children and friends again.
Just imagine being the children of Aysha Frade, eagerly waiting for their mother at school, looking forward to going home to spend time with the family, only to realise that someone had taken her life. Imagine being the wife of PC Palmer, who everyday says goodbye to her husband as he goes off to work always expecting he will return home from his shift safely, but this time, on this day, he doesn't.
Nothing is worse than that and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
Many have described yesterday's assault as an "attack on democracy", or as Theresa May put it, "a shot against our values of ‘democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law". True, this Jihadist scumbag and his ideological ilk do hate these values and their universality because it is in direct opposition to everything they stand for: one set of values sets the conditions for human flourishing, happiness and emancipation, while the other set can only bring death, misery and enslavement.
However, let us have some perspective. No individual, no matter how well armed they are, no matter how determined, no matter how committed he is to his cause, can overthrow democracy or enslave a free people. These hard won rights and liberties that previous generations have struggled for are too robust, too vigarous, too steeped in the consciousness of all generations, to be overthrown by a twisted zealot with a weaponised vehicle, a knife, and a perverse belief in a reward of 72 virgins in a celestial orgy for killing 'the kuffar'.
The only way the terrorist would have any impact on democracy and freedom is if we give him an enourmous helping hand. It will be our response as a society to this act of barbarity that will decide whether democracy is under attack or not.
You can rest assured vile bigots and Muslimaphobic chauvanists who desire to stigmatise and demonise an entire community, are talking this attack up as an act of war, the latest blow by an Islamic army slowly, stealthily conquering Europe. These merchants of racism from the far-right have no other purpose but to spread irrational fear and hatred. They claimed Britain was "cowed" by the crime and London was "shut down" and under "lockdown" as a result of the attack. This is of course a total falsehood, London carried on as normal and people were not cowed and went about their business as usual. All these people desire is the power to subjugate and stigmatise muslims, and they seek to undermine the idea that peoples of different faiths can coexist with each other and build a society.
Meanwhile those often labelled "the regressive left" will indulge themselves in a toxic mix of victim blaming, masochism and a self hatred before the blood of the victims is even allowed to dry, desperately peddling 'grievance' and 'root cause' narratives of how 'we' brought this horror on ourselves; of how these are the deserved punishements for our numerous crimes and iniquities; of why we somehow triggered this poor guy to slam a car into a pedestrians and slit a man's throat.
I have said it before and I will say it again: do not give me this crap that jihadist atrocities are a response (or shall we say 'blowback') to western imperialism. ISIS are not anti-imperialists, or some strange Islamic version of liberation theology. They are pro-imperialism, they seek to revive a lost empire: their imagined caliphate. This is what their Islamic state project is all about, imposing a purritanical, theocratic fascist empire, first in the muslim world, then across the whole world. Obviously, this project is so utopian and so irrational that it could never be fully established, but let us be clear on their intentions and the character of their ideology.
In response to these two pathologies, we cannot surrender ourselves to the culture of fear and the politics of suspicion because it will potentially lead to us down the barren road of petty authoritarianism, the security state and foul assaults on the liberties which supposedly needed to be defended from the Islamist threat.
While it is understandable and proper that we focus on the tragic nature of this attack and the challenges around other potential attack it provokes. Let us not forget the bravery, heroism and humanity that was on display in the midst of such savagery and the international solidarity and sympathy. We may have seen the worst of humanity, but we also saw the best of it.
Our response to yesterday's assault should be to demand more freedom and democracy, not less. It should be to never allow hatred and fear to colonise our hearts. It should be to remember the victims, their memory and humanise them, as opposed to the manner the terrorist dehumanised them. Ultimately, it is to do everything within our power to make sure that while this bloody, savage act may have succeeded in impacting awfully on scores of innocent people, it will have no impact on our values, our political life, our daily lives, and our sense of security.
This, of course, on its own won't solve the challenges the global threat we all face from the Jihadist internationale, but it is neccessary step to even begin dealing with the challenge. We must resist terrorism not complete it.