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Manchester Attack: Time to Address the Unspeakable

It is no longer possible to keep religion out of the terrorism equation.

It’s becoming difficult to find words that haven’t been repeated a thousand times already on the subject of terrorism: the sadness and disbelief, the resolve, resilience, solidarity and unity of a people. But it’s not enough anymore; the children who never came home from a concert are testament to that.

Put as simplistically as possible, at the behest of offending and social scorn, Britain’s counterterrorism strategy, both domestic and foreign, must directly address monotheism. The dangers of Islamic extremism are based in Islam, nothing else, and thus we must fully embrace that it is time to scrutinize all aspects of counterterrorism strategy to align with the direct threat — a strategy that is currently hapless and disjointed.

Members of the Muslim community were quick to condemn the latest attack, and distance themselves for the attacker and his extremism. They declared the act as cowardice and having no place in Islam; yet, sadly, it does. You can’t simply ignore where the threat festers: it is from Islam.

In the Name of Democracy

Western democracy is showing itself as fertile ground for extremism, littered with examples of frustrated security services and police forces constantly fighting against freedom of information and the legal grey areas that protect preachers of hate and the recruiters for evil.

Anjem Choudary, for example, was on the cusp of breaking the law for years, responsible for the radicalization of numerous young men. When finally convicted of hate crimes and supporting the Islamic State (IS), his only remorse came in the plea from his solicitor that he “regretted breaking the law” — not his support for IS.

And the Anjem Choudarys of the world can be found almost everywhere, from Oslo to Melbourne. These individuals have the freedom and the ability to preach, in the name of democracy, in the name of freedom and in the name of Islam.

I now openly question domestic counterterrorism policy. Even here in the UK, where we have a developed and broad strategy, it still fails to address the specific threat — it is still reactionary, and it still leaves religion out of the equation. Historically, that may be justifiable: Spain’s ETA, the IRA and other groups fought the state, with clear political ambition. You can perhaps argue that sectarianism played a role in Northern Ireland, but the clergy largely stayed out the conflict. The driver for these nationalist movements was perceived democracy, not hate and certainly not the annihilation of the other side.

Where it comes close to dealing with Islam, there is resentment; the PREVENT scheme, for example, is perceived to be used to spy on the Muslim community rather than its genuine imperative and true objective, which is stopping radicalization. When we in the West have these conversations following such attacks, exactly as we have done here today, about how multicultural we are as a nation, every creed and color united, it doesn’t mean we ignore the fundamentals — it is exactly the reason why we must address them. The Islamic State has systematically tried to exterminate the Yazidis in Iraq, execute every Shia in sight, every non-believer, every single apostate — everyone. And if they could, they would do the same here.

Lack of Strategy

Our strategy is lacking, domestically and internationally. There is no sign, after a decade of Islamic extremism hitting the West, over four years of the Islamic State punching beyond its borders, of any joined thinking or a multilateral strategy in sight. To contemplate that foreign counterterrorism policy doesn’t have a domestic impact is naive. It is hard to imagine, given current thinking and strategy, that Islamic extremism on the scale and violent nature that currently exists, will be gone in my lifetime. Unlike political terrorism we have seen many times before, religious terrorism is based on a much deeper, much wider fanatical foundation. And a lack of proper strategy that allowed IS to carve out, albeit briefly, its “state” in Raqqa will also allow it to dissipate into a global movement for decades to come.

It may now be time to think again and not be frightened of questioning our stance on an issue that simply hasn’t gone away. This doesn’t mean there is a need to become radical in our domestic approach, but be more pragmatic, identify the grey areas in society that allow so much vile hate to exist and prosper, and to trust our police and security agencies with intelligence and social media. And the Muslim community has a responsibility to embrace policy, to understand it fully and make sure the message is understood for the good it is aimed at doing.

Likewise, with our international policy against IS, whatever it currently is, it needs to be dynamic, ruthless and, above all, multilateral in design. The problem currently posed is almost as global as it could be, but we mustn’t doubt the group’s aim to extend further if it were remotely possible whilst increasing the number of attacks. The argument for staying out of the Middle East when it comes to IS has been well and truly lost. The Islamic State’s fight has no borders and no humanity: This is a war that IS declared and only it seems to be fighting.

If we are not prepared to have a grownup debate, if we are not now finally prepared to design a counterterrorism policy that directly address monotheism, then there will be more Manchesters, more victims, more blood and more vigils. There are soldiers on Britain’s streets today, but still the sound of “solidarity” seems to deafen the problem at large. The monotony is becoming unbearable, and it is now surely time to counter the very heart of the terror.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: kelvinjay