The Elephant in the room | Mario Laghos & Jake Scott
‘Don’t look back in anger’ was the message to Mancunians especially, and Brits at large in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Salman Ramadan Abedi, the monster who carried out the attack, was born in Manchester, the son of Libyan refugees. But the fact that he and his brother successfully conspired to nail bomb the daughters of those who had welcomed him and his parents is, I would argue, a very, very good reason to look back in anger. Far from a call to stoicism, the message, which really manifests as coping mechanism for the political class, is a call to turn a blind eye. Our political representatives stubbornly refuse to publicly or comprehensively address the issue of Islamic extremism, or that which enables and ferments it. In reality, ‘don’t look back in anger’ is a call not to look at all.
Afterall, no other victim in our society would ever be told not to look back in anger. Who would think to tell the victims of the Grenfell tower fire not to be angry about the flammable cladding which encased their homes? Nobody, of course. Imagine if local authorities and pop culture figures crawled from the woodwork to tell flooding victims not to be angry about the dire state of their flood defences; you can’t. Would the Islamic community ever be lectured about anger in relation to the 2017 Finsbury Mosque terror attack? No.
Although our security services work diligently and around the clock to keep the British people safe, from all manner of threats, the systemic factors which enable this threat, remain untouched. No one is looking at them, after all. These issues cannot be overcome if they can not even be discussed in the public square, by layman or by our political representatives both.
This very year, Khairi Saadallah, a Libyan refugee killed 3, and injured 3 others in a terrorist attack in Reading. Far from there being a public debate, or any other kind of process taking place by which we can ascertain truth and move to remedy the issue(s) that catalyse these monstrous attacks, the news cycle moved on within a day. It was forgotten, and no one looked back in anger. The blind eye turned to this crisis by our leadership and news media is nauseating, and damaging to social cohesion, because it doesn’t fool anybody.
One cannot ignore the frequency with which these attacks now come. Given Sadiq Khan’s grotesque comment that terrorist attacks are ‘part and parcel’ of living in a big city, we almost are expected to do the opposite: not ignore them, but accept them as inevitable costs. Besides, Reading is hardly a ‘big city’, so how far can Mr. Khan’s logic be stretched? If a neighbour’s house is burgled, do I accept it as part and parcel of living in a town? Or do I take measures to ensure, first, others do not burgle, and second, I do not get burgled? This strange tendency of putting the onus on the victim to accept the crime amounts to a ‘like it or lump it’ attitude in which one cannot like it, so one must lump it.
And Saadallah is not alone in his crime, nor his background. A forthcoming Henry Jackson Society report will reveal that as many as forty-five foreign-born Islamist terrorists remain in the United Kingdom after serving their sentences. Of these foreign-born terrorists, four originally hail from Libya, and three of these have successfully contested their deportation orders.
In between the calls to not look back in anger, we seem to have forgotten to look at all.
If that attack in Reading had not been inspired by Islam or carried out by a refugee, but instead been a far-right attack carried out against Black Lives Matter, is it likely that the news media would drop the story within hours? No. In those circumstances we would be looking back in anger for decades to come. And, why not; is this not how we motivate the collective to assemble and affect change in their own image and interest? Is the snuffing out of coverage or dialogue anything more than an attempt to snuff out this mobilisation because our leaders are too fearful of the backlash?
In the face of British, nay European cowardice, enter Macron, that great centrist hope, who has taken a harder line than the ‘hated’ Johnson or the ‘fascist’ Trump on everything from statue topplers to Islamic extremists. Macron looked at the murder of Samuel Paty, and he got angry. He was compelled to affect change, and he has begun the long and difficult work of bringing it to fruition. But, if Liam Duffy is right to point out that the problem lies in the threat of Islamism, not the response of ‘Macronism’, then we really must begin to look back, and question the origins of these atrocities.
I repeat the earlier assertion that our security services do not hesitate to act in the interests of our safety. There is a well-staffed and well-funded apparatus working around the clock to combat every type of threat to our national security. But this ‘whack-a-mole’ strategy is insufficient; the aim of the game ought not to be to successfully monitor hundreds, if not thousands of potential terrorists around the clock, but to avoid having a need for such mass surveillance in the first instance.
The hand waving that has gone on for so long, blaming terror on deprivation, cannot suffice when so many who seek to reap it are middle class and often born in Britain. Deep introspection is needed to understand why it is, that people born into or given refuge by our country, and Europe at large would turn in such great numbers against us. It is one of the most horrific of societal phenomena, which runs contrary to everything we know about human decency, and we ought not to let this fact be lost on us. We ought not to accept this as ‘part and parcel’. We ought to look back.