On a day that was supposed to be one of remembrance and commemoration, a day that would symbolize European solidarity and unity, a devastating terrorist attack killing four took place in London. Armed with a weapon and a kitchen knife, Khalid Massood, a 52-year old Brit, managed to shake the world once again.
It is quite often that you hear about terrorist attacks being prevented by counter-intelligence agencies and the police. However, contrary to the London attack, these complex plots involved cautious planning and the acquisition of a myriad of weaponry, explosives and vehicles. This attack is in no way comparable to Charlie Hebdo or 9/11, this attack was carried out by one man who bought a kitchen knife at the local supermarket and had a drivers license. The intelligence agencies had apparently already investigated this man for ‘some years’, but even when a person is known to have radicalized, even if the respective person would have still been under ‘investigation’, this attack could have not been prevented. Not even by an organization as well-funded and -organized as MI-5.
Besides the obvious shortcomings of intelligence agencies when it comes to preventing such ‘lone-wolf’, guerrilla-esque attacks, it is to be noted that the attacker was a radicalized Brit. See, IS may be losing ground in the complex situation in the middle-east, their online presence has been especially devastating – successful from their point of view. From this we should conclude that the problem of terrorism does not have to do with open borders, or the lack of Western values. If people feel attracted to radical Islamism – because that is what it is, a true molestation of a belief – as was the case this time, the problem lies somewhere else, namely: in society itself. Once again, nationalist populism is merely a non-solution, comprising of bleak – and frankly, weak – rhetoric that does not solve problems.
Because of this, I very much disagree with Carolien Roelants, columnist for NRC, who wrote: “Right, imagine that those values [values of democracy, liberty and freedom of speech] wouldn’t make it against what are, in the end, a few terrorists”. Quite comparable to the famous butterfly that created a hurricane, such events have much larger effects. In part, terrorism has accounted for anti-Islam sentiment and evidently contributed greatly to the right-wing nationalist populism insurgence that now stirs the foundation of our democracy. Besides, if Adrian Elms, grown up in a Western democracy is attracted by such radical beliefs as IS propagates, there is a bigger problem than ‘a few’ terrorist attacks.
During the aftermath of the London attacks, a possible second attack in Brussels was prevented by police after the supposed attacker was caught speeding. This example only goes to show that – even though this day of remembrance may have been a more devastating day than others – terrorism is a real fear. Such a crude and practically non-preventable attack shows that privacy-inflicting methods do not always have the upper hand. The fact that the attacker was a Brit shows that empty ‘close the border’-type statements do not work. This attack shines a light on problems within the so-praised Western society and only if terrorism is seen as a problem that also originates from within that Western society can it be treated efficiently and effectively.
For those willing to check out Carolien Roelants article, please note that it is in Dutch.