Not Tweets And Anger But Redoubled Vigilance

The deadly terrorist attack on Westminster underlines the urgency of strengthening the West’s strategy to defeat Islamism at home and abroad

Daniel Johnson

It should not surprise us that Khalid Masood, a Birmingham-based Islamist convert and terrorist, chose Westminster to stage his atrocity. The British Parliament is wmore than a symbol of parliamentary democracy: it is the nearest thing we have to a physical embodiment of Western civilisation. For 800 years it has combined political, spiritual and legal functions and provided the pattern of liberty for the whole world. That is why it was nearly obliterated by Hitler. That is why it has been a terrorist target for four centuries. Parliament represents everything that Islamism most hates: representative government, freedom of speech, the rule of law. The ancient stones of Westminster, home to the mother of parliaments, have been a backdrop to much of our history; but never before to the scenes of gratuitous barbarism that we have just witnessed.

That jihadists would, sooner or later, return to attack London was predictable and predicted — not least by Standpoint. Exactly a year before Islamist terror came to the capital on March 22, Brussels was bombed, soon after the Paris attacks. Standpoint’s next cover, in May 2016 (right), showed the scimitar of Islamic State hanging like the sword of Damocles over the London skyline, with the headline: “London under threat”. Since then Nice and Berlin have suffered massacres. But London has always been in the firing line, despite Britain’s world-class counter-terrorism force. Not even a national state of emergency (such as France has endured since 2015) could have prevented the global tide of jihadism washing up on our shores, killing four innocent people and injuring 40 more at Westminster.

What can be done? Across Europe, there is a deep sense of foreboding. Jihadi attacks have now penetrated the elaborate security measures that the capitals of Western Europe have put in place. The Prime Minister wasted no time in reassuring the nation that London would carry on as normal. She was in no mood for excuses on behalf of “the voices of hate and evil”. Her statement to the Commons next day was even more robust. Theresa May has risen magnificently to the challenge, finding exactly the right calm tone and grave demeanour. Her authority will have been enhanced by this ordeal and she must seize the opportunity for a root and branch reform of the government’s strategy and tactics in the war against Islamist terror.

In the coming weeks and months, Mrs May needs to take new measures to stop radical Islamist preachers and IS propagandists spreading their poison. Google and other technology companies, who have failed to police their own online output, are now being shunned by brands who object to their advertisements appearing with extremist YouTube videos. Mealy-mouthed apologies to advertisers (not to the public, or even the victims of terror) by Google’s executives are quite inadequate. Google’s customers are dismayed that the firm makes so little effort to find and remove such extremist material. In the absence of state sanctions, the market will bring companies to book that behave as if they were above the law. The point is not just to cut off the sources of radicalisation, but to force global elites to play their part in the defence of the civilisation on which they too depend. Prevent anti-radicalisation programme is still anathema to the Left and many Muslims, but it has been successful in adapting to the evolving jihadist threat. Still, there is much more to be done in changing hearts and minds, finding out what is happening inside closed communities, and identifying those responsible for indoctrinating the young — who are not only or necessarily the terrorists themselves.

A new threat is now emerging, visible in the shape of Tayyip Recep Erdogan, the Turkish president who is seeking dictatorial powers in a plebiscite. He has been appealing to European Muslims of Turkish origin, regardless of citizenship, over the heads of the Dutch and German governments. He denounces the latter as “Nazis” and calls on Turks to defy them. No less dangerously, he seeks to sow division by also playing on the fears of host populations, urging his compatriots to have “not three but five children”. Never before has the Islamist head of an Islamic state drawn attention to the issues of divided loyalties and demographic takeover, which have the potential to be toxic for Europe’s relations not only with Turks but with other Muslim minorities. To make matters worse, Erdogan is also blackmailing the EU over refugees from Syria, whose access to Greece and the Balkans he can restore at any time. Standpoint has warned that he would choose the moment of maximum impact on European politics to reignite the migration crisis. That day may now be fast approaching.

Here in Britain we can no longer feel insulated from such demagogy in the Islamic world, nor from the reaction that terrorism provokes in the West. This is not a time for tweets and anger: we must be as cold-blooded as those who seek to harm us. It is better to be demonstratively supportive of our friends than to waste words on our enemies. It was significant that Theresa May’s first phone conversation after the attack was apparently with President Trump, whom so many at home and abroad have treated as a pariah. For all his faults, Mr Trump has proved himself a true friend in need.

Her government has also indicated that it intends to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in November with the first official royal visit to Israel. Such a visit — long advocated by Standpoint but stubbornly resisted by the Foreign Office — would send a powerful message of solidarity to one of the most valuable of our allies. It would also signal that a post-Brexit Britain does not intend to be bound by UN or EU attempts to bully the Jewish State into compromising its security. We should never forget that Israel plays an essential part behind the scenes in defeating the threat that brings death to the streets of London. civilisation cannot be brought down just by jihadists, even if their numbers are growing and they do not care whether they live or die. But our report on France by Michel Gurfinkiel is highly suggestive for Britain too. The French find themselves living in a semi-permanent state of siege. We British may find ourselves in the same plight if we now make the wrong decisions about education and integration. Segregation in schools is rapidly getting worse in our cities. In Birmingham schools, for example, the proportion of white British children fell from 39 to 32 per cent in just five years from 2011-2016. Ethnic and religious segregation usually go together. In his new book Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West (Princeton), Gilles Kepel concludes with the insight that the “single place” where Muslims and non-Muslims can “move beyond atavism and communalism” is the lycée, the French high school. Ironically, three of the victims on Westminster Bridge were pupils at the Lycée Saint-Joseph in Concarneau, Brittany.

Ever since the 1980s, Kepel has been warning about the incubation of jihadism in the banlieues around cities among the second and now third generation of French Muslims. The horrors of Paris and Nice originated in the failure to use the classroom as a place where the jihadist narrative — which denies that Arab armies were ejected after the Battle of Poitiers in 732 and claims that France rightfully belongs to Islam — can be confronted with the facts. Anti-colonialism can morph into Islamism.

Here in Britain, we must not allow the separation of mosque and state to become blurred by the replacement of the secular law by Sharia. Mrs May, echoing her predecessors, told Parliament that Islamism is a “warped perversion” of Islam. Yet across much of the Muslim world, including many communities in the West, there is broad support for “Islamism” — political Islam — if not for violent jihad. It is vital that the battle of ideas is taken seriously in our universities, think tanks and media, so that distortions of history and current affairs are refuted immediately. We need academics to defend our civilisation.

For that to happen, we must reverse the drift towards turning higher education into a monoculture where dissent is discouraged or even suppressed. This problem, which afflicts the whole Western world, was illustrated by last month’s disturbing incident at Middlebury College, Vermont, in which Charles Murray, a highly distinguished visiting conservative speaker, was attacked by a masked mob who injured the female professor hosting the event. Even in the worst days of McCarthyism, dissenting voices continued to be heard in American universities. Curiously, this incident (a big story in the United States) was barely reported in Britain. Perhaps we are now so used to verbal and even physical intimidation on campus that it barely registers with our demoralised media. If we fail to restore the primary purpose of our universities as institutions of learning, not playgrounds for propaganda, we shall be unable to engage in the clash of ideas. Now we can clearly see that the survival of Western civilisation is at stake. The bloodbath on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament is the price that we pay for failing to instill the values of that civilisation into all those who claim the right to call themselves British citizens. 

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