The beheading of a teacher shows Islamic extremists are still intent on destroying us. Here’s 5 steps we must take to stop them
It’s time to stop worrying so much about Covid and focus on the real existential threat to our way of life. As a former police commander, I know that only radical, sustained action will stop these killers.
The recent savage beheading of a teacher in France, for just doing his job – broadening the minds of children by teaching the importance of freedom of speech and religion – is a salutary reminder of the threat that lurks within our Western societies.
This terrible attack by a young extremist Islamist terrorist of Chechen heritage is one of so many awful incidents over the past few years, ones that we somehow seem to forget so quickly.
Factors such as Covid-19 being rife across the UK and Europe, an economic recession, and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, have distracted the minds of most of us from giving consideration to just what an existential threat Islamist extremism is to our way of life.
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It’s not just about the potential risks of ourselves or a member of our families being caught up in such an attack as we go about our daily lives. That prospect in itself is bad enough. But I make no apology for saying that the threat to us is more fundamental, and is one that should be at the top of every European leader’s in-tray, whatever our other travails.
We have to understand the nature of the threat being presented to us by Islamist extremism, and we need to take urgent and sustained action to combat it. Or it will overwhelm us.
Look at the continuing atrocities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, who are only outdone in their brutality by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), at a time when the West is participating in ‘peace’ negotiations with them. If you believe that you can do a deal with such fanatics, then you probably need to be tested for the virus of naivety. The same applies to their followers who, while living amongst us in Europe, despise our way of life and who murder on our streets in pursuit of their warped ideology.
These horrors of Islamist extremism are also on display in Somalia, Kenya, northern Mozambique, and in Nigeria and Mali, where Boko Haram continues with its carnival of bombings, torture and head cutting.
If we do not get what is going on now, nearly 20 years after the World Trade Centre came down, we never will. You cannot negotiate or change these people or make ‘peace deals’. When they set off on their route towards inflicting terror on innocent people, they must be stopped with extreme prejudice.
In just our small island, let’s think about the slaughters of the innocents that took place at Fishmongers Hall in the City of London, at London Bridge and Borough Market, at Westminster Bridge and Parliament, at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, and at Streatham in South London. Not forgetting the gruesome almost beheading of Fusilier Lee Rigby on a South East London street in Woolwich, or the 7/7 Tube and Bus atrocities.
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Space prevents me from listing the long line of similar attacks in France and the rest of Europe, Russia and even India.
What’s to be done? How do we stop another Samuel Paty being beheaded outside his school, or young girls being blown up while watching their favourite pop star? Does anyone in power in this country seem to have any answer to this? No one seems to know, or, if they do, they will not say it.
So, what do I, as a former London police commander, say should be done? What can we do to reduce the threat to us all?
After many years in policing having worked in Afghanistan, Iraq and London, I have a few suggestions.
First and foremost, accept this wave of attacks for what it represents: an unrelenting assault on our way of life that will not stop and is not the work of a few random radicals.
Secondly, tighten the screw on immigration, legal and illegal, into this country and Europe, and carry out more stringent tests on those we do allow in, and make it mandatory for them to learn our language and about our culture.
Thirdly, accept that there needs to be a radical, if logical, change to the way we police in the UK. If you look at every attack that has occurred in Europe and the UK, including the latest on the teacher, there is a common thread. In virtually every case the attackers are stopped by being shot dead by responding police. There is nothing clever about it. In simple terms, the fact is the police were nearby with firearms and killed the terrorists and, by so doing, saved many lives.
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Here in the UK, however, this common thread is more tenuous than elsewhere. In most of the attacks we’ve suffered, except for Lee Rigby at Woolwich, armed Central London officers were on scene within a few minutes. In the attack in Streatham, in an area at least 15 minutes from where these officers are based, we were lucky. Although the terrorist had been released from prison, he was considered so dangerous that he was being followed by armed surveillance officers who shot him once he started his murderous attack.
So let’s get real in doing what we need to protect us: arm all patrolling police officers with a sidearm, so that even the oldest or smallest officer can stop a terrorist instantly. One day the terrorists will carry out an attack in Brighton or Scunthorpe or some other regional town, and armed police will not be there to stop them until they have killed many people.
We no longer live in a world where a bobby armed with a truncheon, a whistle and a pair of handcuffs can enforce the law. In the face of a suicidal opponent who’s got swords, AK47s and bombs strapped to his back?
Our naive police leaders, the office wallahs of the Police Federation and those officers who work in specialist units need to stop deluding themselves that we should not arm all our response officers. After all, it’s not these people who will have to come to our rescue one day.
The police in Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all patrol with firearms. Their communities still talk to them and cooperate with policing.
Fourthly, we need to get serious at addressing all the false messages on the internet that recruits these young people and brainwashes them into their murderous beliefs. Why isn’t every area in the country deploying people to constantly tweet and snapchat a counter narrative? It’s what we started to do in Afghanistan. At a time when we are spending up to £200 billion on mitigating the effects of Covid, some investment in getting upstream of the propaganda on social media would be chicken feed.
Fifthly, and finally, we in the West need to get serious about who our friends are. The growth of radical Islamism has been funded for a long time by those Middle Eastern states who sell us hydrocarbon fuel, let us base troops in their countries, and buy our weapons. They all openly flaunt human rights.
They pay for the likes of extremist Imams to be trained in radical Madrasas around Lahore, Pakistan and then place them in positions of influence in ‘moderate’ mosques around the Western world. Our values of equal rights for women, freedom of speech and religion are being unpicked right now as we drink our tea and worry about a second wave of coronavirus. What about the tsunami of terror we’re enduring?
I regret to say that none of my suggestions are yet under serious consideration, let alone about to be adopted, in the UK. Instead, we adopt our typical British approach of looking the other way and the duplicitous fudging of what we really believe in, for the sake of getting oil, gas and weapons sales. And we dream of living in the nostalgic world of Dixon of Dock Green. It’s forgotten that in the original movie the long-running TV series was based on, ‘The Blue Lamp’, PC Dixon was shot dead by an armed thug.
Wake up, Prime Minister Johnson and Home Secretary Patel. The gravest danger to our country is not some pandemic that specialises in killing people over the age of 80 and leaves 98 percent of us alive.
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