So, here we are again in an aftermath of terror. The scent of dredged up venom, the sounds of consternation, London has once again been attacked. The innocent have been slain and Europe’s streets are laden in blood. Islamic terrorism has tried to whittle away our Western values. It has failed.
The assailant, 52-year-old Khalid Masood, originally Adrian Russell Ajao, killed 4 people on the 22nd of March in the most barbarous manner near Westminster, before being shot and later dying at hospital.
What do we know so far?
- ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the killer was a ‘soldier of the Islamic State’
- Masood spent four years teaching in Saudi Arabia, where it is believed he may have been radicalised
- A probe into the British citizen’s links to violent jihadism was ‘historical’ and he was deemed ‘peripheral’
- Mother-of-two Aysha Frade, Metropolitan policeman Keith Palmer and US tourist Kurt Cochran have been named as victims of Masood’s attack
- At least 50 injured
- Severely injured woman pulled from the Thames
Beginning on Westminster Bridge, and continuing into Parliament Square and the grounds of the Palace of Westminster, Khalid Masood, drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. 4 were savagely killed and at least 50 were injured. Masood then abandoned the car and scampered into the Palace grounds; there Masood fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer, Keith Palmer, and was shot dead by other officers.
Addressing MPs, Prime Minister Theresa May said that the attacker “some years ago” was “once investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism”.
She continued: “He was a peripheral figure. The case is historic – he was not part of the current intelligence picture. There was no prior intelligence of his intent – or of the plot.”
Reports suggest that Masood hired a car from the Spring Hill branch of Enterprise in north Birmingham before driving it to London before besetting London with terror.
In the aftermath of Masood’s attack on London, many significant figures expressed their sympathies for the victims and those who worked intrepidly to protect others. For example, Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted:
We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror or allowing the voices of hate & evil to drive us apart https://t.co/3745qXGpcf
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) March 22, 2017
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, also took it upon himself to pay tribute to the police and security services who helped allay the terror both during and in the aftermath of the attack in London. In the video, Corbyn, with sincere passion in his voice, warned that Londoners “stay united” in its communities and to not allow “fear or the voices of hatred to divide or cower us”.
We are united by our humanity and democratic values, by our impulse for solidarity, to stand together in times of darkness and adversity. pic.twitter.com/QA90uLFRxG
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 23, 2017
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, also took to Twitter to show his condolences and to reify London’s solidarity that will not be “cowed by terrorism”.
Tonight we stood together to remember those who lost their lives and to send a clear message: Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism. pic.twitter.com/08xVcynlr4
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 23, 2017
It should, and surely does, embolden the London spirit with its coy sense of comradeship that many Londoners are speaking out against the hate we saw incarnate outside Westminster. The victims, their families, and all the police and security services involved deserve a deluge of tribute, sympathy and solidarity.
However, does the truth not deserve such solidarity? Far-right sorts, quick to capitalise on such tragedies to strew their anti-Muslim bigotry, were quick to point out that the tragedy was a jihadi terrorist and thus motivated by Islamism. ‘Muslims will not adjourn their terror until their flag is flying above Westminster’ was the message, or words to that effect, touted by people such as former EDL leader, Tommy Robinson. What mainstream commentaries and the rhetoric by the far-right show is that there’s a gaping hole in how Islamic terrorism is reported. Not only in Britain, the attacks in Germany and France also saw disproportionate numbers of people make little of the ideology underpinning the terror – instead cloaking it under the epithet of “hate” or the nebulously broad term ‘terrorism’. ‘Hate’, particularly how the word has been employed by British politicians, has become the new politically-correct vignette of Islamic terrorism; one well-disposed to all trigger-prone observers, and one that pussyfoots around the catalyst that stirred Masood to desire the butchery of innocent citizens in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world.
Failing to distinguish Islamism from Islam, many leaders, presumably through fear of galling those Muslims here in the UK partial to the more Islamist factions of their religion, refuse to use the world ‘Islamic terrorism’. Islamic terrorism here commonly defined as any terrorist act, set of acts or campaign committed by groups or individuals who profess Islamic or Islamist motivations or goals. I should clarify that even though ‘Islamic terrorism’ is commonly defined as having its roots in either Islamic or Islamist motivations or goals, the main (and what many would argue is the sole) culprit is Islamism. Islamism is a word encompassing diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles, or more specifically to movements calling for the full implementation of sharia.
What Maajid Nawaz calls ‘The Voldemort Effect‘, those who refuse to call it out for what it is, Islamic terrorism, that which is moved principally by the Islamist ideology, stymie the fight to redress those more retrograde factions of the Islamic faith. What has been depreciated, overlooked or flat-out dismissed is the fact that many liberal reformers in the Islamic world, such as Nawaz and many others, also rely on the distinction between Islam and Islamism in order to expunge the latter, to pry it away not only to legitimise the point that Islamism is not inextricably linked to Islam, but also that for the reason that Islamism is what is underpinning Islamic terrorism – not Islam.
The fight, of course, is being undercut by the conservative voices in the Islamic world – those who argue that Islamism is an undivorceable constituent of Islam. Consequently, extremists such as Masood are moved by the belief that their actions are tantamount to being a ‘good Muslim’. If that bifurcation is being resisted within the Islamic world, even if only by conservative voices, the tension is only being exacerbated by the most powerful voices here in the UK – those who, under the false view that Islam and Islamism are inextricably linked -, refuse to call such terrorism for what it really is, Islamic terrorism – terrorism driven by Islamist ideology.
Another problem the Voldemort Effect presents is that those who are naming the ideology, namely the far-right, are given legitimacy as ‘knowing what’s really going on!” The increasing popularity in anti-Islam parties in Europe, such as Marine Le Pen’s ‘National Front’, and Geert Wilders’ ‘Party for Freedom’, are surely offshoots of a climate that has become increasingly characterised by self-censorship and its consequent naivety. Thus, the loudest voices decrying the degenerate values by those Islamist crusaders are the far-right.
We must admit that because they’re the loudest and almost exclusive voices denouncing the values underpinning the actions of such people as Masood, the Far-Right will be the voices that in times of horror and maelstrom people will be in cahoots with. Why is this a problem? This is a problem because the Far-Right also obfuscate the Islam-Islamism distinction by its distinctive argument that all Muslims are thawb-donning, caliphate craving fundamentalists at odds with British values. To suggest, of course, that the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are or could be donning values that are antithetical to Western values has a fetor of bigotry to it.
London may well have been attacked by a caliphate-craving fundamentalist, but London does indeed have a sense of solidarity, one that is implacable, one that is impervious to the attacks of bloodthirsty religious fundamentalists. Not to downplay the possibility that there are voices also within London desiring to depose the values that individuate the city – its values of democracy, equality, justice and humanism -, London will not, and cannot, be toppled
Let’s delegitimise the Far-Right by speaking openly, but without the cloying bigotry, about some of the acute problems in the Islamic world, namely Islamism. Let’s help embolden those Liberal voices in the Islamic community, and let’s make sure we do not perpetuate the obstacles to redressing those more retrograde factions of the Islamic faith – refusing to call out what really underpins the kind of terrorism that we’ve seen not just in Britain this week, but across Europe (and other places) these last few years (and more).
Benjamin David founded Conatus News in 2016. He currently works as an editor for Parliamentary Review.