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"We should applaud Channel 4 for telling the truth": Khuram Butt, who appeared on the periphery in the documentary The Jihadis Next Door (© Metropolitan Police/PA Wire/PA Images)

The generation now entering its eighties endured the Blitz, and my generation, their children, lived in its aftermath. When I was young in the 1970s the Second World War was still everywhere: on television, in films, and in the stories our parents told. There were even still a few bomb sites left for us to inspect. Not to be left out, we had a minor Blitz of our own too as we lived through what we euphemistically called “the Troubles”.

The national myth holds that the Nazis and the IRA taught the British to show sangfroid and insouciance in the face of fire. And indeed the nation’s heart gladdened to see the picture of a man running from the attack on London Bridge while retaining the steadiness of hand and presence of mind to ensure that not one drop of beer spilt from his brimming glass. The government, too, maintained a stiff upper lip, and resisted the urge to rush out proposals for anti-terrorist legislation.

The original story of the Blitz spirit contained a fair dose of wartime propaganda. There was enough looting, panic and official incompetence in the Second World War to suggest not everyone displayed stoic resilience. But myths become real when we believe them. The reaction to Islamists attacking two of their God-given targets — teenage girls enjoying an “immodest” concert in Manchester and Londoners enjoying alcohol — was all we could hope for. We kept calm and carried on. The attack on Finsbury Park Mosque met with universal revulsion.

For all that, history is not a reliable guide to the present. At no time in the 20th century could a film like the The Jihadis Next Door have become part of an anti-terrorist investigation. Even before the attack, the Channel 4 documentary (still viewable on YouTube) stood out as a spectacular example of journalistic persistence. Jamie Roberts spent two years interviewing radical Islamists, who may well live next door to you if you live in London. On his film, broadcast in 2016, they waved the black flag of Islamic State. They talked of their dream of seeing it flying over 10 Downing Street as Sharia covered the world.

Ominously for the police, they knew the law and how to avoid its clutches. They were very careful not to say they supported IS, as the admission carried a prison sentence. Nevertheless they rejoiced in the murder of innocents. Abu Haleema, a leading ideologue, said after the murders of 130 in Paris: “The chickens have come home to roost. They’ve brought it upon themselves . . . this is what happens in war.”

A peripheral figure in the film was Khuram Butt. Dressed in a djellaba, he prayed in Regent’s Park before the black flag of IS, and startled picnickers. In June this year he went on to become one of the terrorists whom police shot dead before they could kill any more innocents in Borough Market.

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observer
June 28th, 2017
9:06 PM
Yes, C4 should be praised for telling the truth about jihadi's among us. Now, if only C4 would commission a series or two telling the truth about the rotten history of communism and by extension socialism. People might be less keen to put their trust in Jeremy Corbyn.

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