On Monday 22 May 2017 my worst fears came true.
Salman Abedi, a 22 years old jihadi, was waiting in the foray of the Manchester Arena as young girls came out of a pop concert. Abedi blew himself up with a home made bomb, killing 22 and maiming dozens more, some for the rest of their life.
Last year, when discussing the growing threat posed by Islamist terrorism, I warned that jihadi terrorists would start deliberately targeting children. Tragically this warning has now come true.
The response from the public was overwhelmingly that we will not let this affect our lives and it is an understandable response. It is encapsulated in the slogan “Keep calm and carry on”. Yet, the time for platitudes, messages of solidarity and one minute silences, worthy as they are, cannot be the only response to this deadly threat.
It is time that our media and political elites start being honest with the general public about the scale of the threat, the nature of the ideology that drives young men to slaughter innocent men, women and children and the steps we could take to contain the threat.
As James Forsyth writes in his weekly column, the reality is that our security services are increasingly overwhelmed by the scale of the threat posed by radicalised terrorists. The security agencies have confirmed that there are 23,000 extremists on their radar but only 3,000 can be actually monitored at any time. Indeed, “…the reason the number of persons of interest to the security services has remained at 3,000 for so long is that the security services are operating an informal one in, one out policy. So no one can be added to this list unless someone else is taken off.”
Think about that for the moment. There could be hundreds, if not thousands, of dangerous extremists who should be monitored by the security agencies but who aren’t, as the resources simply aren’t available. The intelligence officers tasked with preventing terrorist attacks are playing God; taking a calculated risk that one potential terrorist is a greater threat then another radicalised extremist.
The truth is that our government has lost control of this problem.
I watched the BBC coverage in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing and not once was the issue of the radical Islamist ideology that drives these attackers discussed by the media talking heads. It is impossible to understand and defeat this insidious enemy if we are not prepared to call it for what it is, which is Islamic terrorism.
These jihadi terrorists are taught a selective and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam which worships the slaughter of infidels, the creation of a sharia based Islamic state which will conquer the non-Muslim world. They justify their actions by quoting the actions and words of the Prophet Mohammed.
This is a sensitive subject for obvious reasons, but my own reading suggests that there are two parallel interpretations within the Koran, a peaceful and aggressive interpretation, and both have theological roots going back to the beginning of Islam. As David Goldman, writing on this subject in Asian Times notes, “…there are two readings of the Qur’an and the Sunna (Islamic traditions connected to Muhammad): one that opts for the verses that encourage tolerance toward other believers, and one that prefers the verses that encourage conflict. Both readings are legitimate.”
Thankfully, the vast majority of Muslims subscribe to the tolerant and peaceful interpretation of Islam, which is a blessing. Yet, in the absence of an Islamic Pope to make a final judgement and conduct a reform of the holy texts, the fundamentalist strand of Islamist thought will continue to exist within the Muslim world. The challenge for Britain and other countries is to contain and preferably destroy this extremist version from their societies.
Tarique Ghaffur, a Muslim former police chief, has publically called for the creation of special internment centres for the most dangerous jihadi extremists. These internment camps would work closely with Muslim religious authorities in removing these dangerous individuals from society and de-radicalising them with the assistance of moderate clerics. Colonel Richard Kemp, writing in the Telegraph, has also called for the internment of the most dangerous extremists, the deportation of foreign extremists residing in the United Kingdom (“UK”) and travel bans on jihadi’s who have gone abroad to fight for the so-called Islamic State (“ISIS”).
The above steps, if taken prior to the Manchester bombing, would have prevented Salmon Abedi from returning to the UK and carrying out his deadly attack. If the government does not take these steps then further terror attacks are almost certainly inevitable and more people will die over the coming years.
Having read extensively on the intelligence and security threat posed, I consider that the UK, in the absence of the internment of the most dangerous jihadi extremists, will face further deadly attacks in the coming years. Just as France experienced a series of jihadi terror attacks, culminating in the horrific Paris attacks which killed over a hundred French citizens in November 2015, Britain is on the same path.
At some point in the coming years, Britain will experience a terrorist attack on a similar scale to the Paris atrocity, and the government will be forced to implement a state of emergency. Internment, deportation and strict immigration controls will be put in place because the general public will demand a muscular response to this growing threat.
The tragic question is how many more innocent people have to die before such action is finally taken by our government?