A bloody week of terror ends in London
A bloody week of terrorist attacks ended with an attack on the British capital on Saturday, killing at least seven people, with 21 in critical condition.
This followed, lest we forget, the attack in Kabul that killed 90 on May 31, and two attacks on Tuesday in Baghdad that killed 17 people. Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other groups are reminding everyone how little they care about Ramadan and how prepared they are to shed innocent blood, even if it is Muslim.
Precise details are thin at this stage, but as with the recent attack in Manchester, a huge investigation has kicked off. Police arrested a dozen people in east London on Sunday.
The attack the night before, in the London Bridge area, killed seven people, not including the three attackers shot dead by police. It was the third terror attack in the UK in 73 days, which left a total of at least 34 dead and many injured.
Add to this the five credible plots that police have thwarted during this period, and it is hard to deny that Daesh and other groups have targeted Britain for a surge in violence. That said, there is as yet no direct link between the three attacks, the British prime minister confirmed. More likely is that extremist groups have generally pushed the word out that Britain is to be targeted.
The fact that the three attackers in London wore fake suicide vests is evidence that these vile losers wished to create mass panic and fear. Yet the thousands of tourists still milling around the center of London in the wake of the attack was powerful testament to the continued failure of the extremists.
No conceivable benefit can come from these attacks — just destruction of lives and property, with no hope that whatever grievance they may nor may not feel will be addressed. They may pretend to act in the name of Islam but they endanger Muslims and risk increasing hatred toward them, by carrying out these highly un-Islamic acts. As with the Manchester bombing, the British Muslim community has been swift to respond positively and constructively; yet too many still have their heads in the sand, believing that somehow this is not their problem.
In the wake of the attacks on Saturday night, the general election campaign was put on hold, respected by all except for the far-right UKIP party. People may ask how the attack may or may not affect the vote on Thursday, but there is no clear answer to that, other than it will go ahead anyway.
With three terror attacks in as many months, and five credible plots thwarted by police, it is hard to deny that Daesh and other groups have targeted Britain for a surge in violence.
The Conservative Party traditionally scores better with the voters on security issues, but polls indicate that many voters do agree with Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, that British foreign policy failures have had a role as well. British Prime Minister Theresa May emphasized the ideological issues but as ever, political leaders veer away from the uncomfortable non-ideological ones. As yet, there are no details as to the identities of the perpetrators, but it should shock nobody if they are young kids with a troubled past, even a criminal record.
The brief halt in election campaigning did not stop May from fulminating that the Internet companies must do more on extremism, arguing that there should be an international agreement on this issue.
The London attacks were, as ever, followed by a series of crass, unwanted comments, including hate speech and anti-Muslim bigotry. Another increasingly common feature of terror attacks is that US President Donald Trump takes to Twitter to have his say — typically in a fashion in which others would not dare. In a hasty series of tweets before hitting the golf course, Trump misleadingly attributed comments to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan about there being “no reason to be alarmed!” after the attacks.
Panic is exactly what the terrorists want, of course. Trump also attempted to use the attack to justify his proposed Muslim ban, even before there is any understanding of where the attackers came from.
The immediate aftermath of such attacks is a mixed time for politicians. The reality is that they are fairly powerless and it is the security services who run the show. Politicians are expected to provide solutions and to reassure. Yet whatever strategies are to be adopted cannot be scribbled out minutes after an attack, but should be the carefully calibrated product of a long, informed and determined debate. “We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are,” stated May. This is true, but it does not mean that a consensus on a productive strategy is anywhere closer. Most of her other comments were reruns of earlier statements, but in truth what more is there to add?
One thing can be done. Not one mainstream British or Western politician referred to Baghdad or Kabul in their statements following the London attacks. Perhaps I missed it, but there were no Iraqi or Afghan flags beamed onto historic landmarks, or a minute’s silence at the UN Security Council. Western politicians cannot just simply ignore or brush under the carpet attacks elsewhere in the world. It is time for a truly global British response and to realize this is a truly global threat with global victims — all of whom should matter. While the extremists are in no danger of winning, it is far from clear that sanity and reason will prevail.
• Chris Doyle is the director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). He has worked with the council since 1993 after graduating with a first-class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic studies at Exeter University. He has organized and accompanied numerous British parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. He tweets @Doylech.