On September 12th, 2001, I attended work as usual at the offices of the National Rail Enquiry Service to find a note on my desk. It was a badly photocopied memo with the heading of the British Transport Police, and in it the police admitted that they didn’t know where or when the next security threat was going to come from. The previous day there had been several terrorist attacks in America, and the whole world was in shock. What was going to happen next.
A few days later I received a phone-call from a man who claimed that an acquaintance of his had taken a gun onto a train. I thought back to a previous time when Britain had been under threat from terrorism, and remembered that we had been old to keep the person talking as long as possible in the hope of getting some clues as to what was happening. And so I talked for several minutes to this man, and when I had run out of things to say I put the phone down. Moments later the police arrived to take evidence, and they said that they believed the call to be a hoax, specifically from a person known to them.
You see, no one knows where the next threat is going to come from; all one can do is do one’s best to deal with the situation.
By July of 2005 I had moved jobs and was working in the telecoms industry, taking calls from people who had problems with their broadband. On July 7th, I woke to the news, and in due course switched my radio off. The radio news at that time finished (and still does finish) at just after 9.00 in the morning. Had the news programme continued in modern day 24 hour rolling news format I would have heard the breaking news of a terrorist attack in London. Several hours later, I turned into work and was assigned to an emergency call centre dealing with railway customers who were trapped in London. (The entire central transportation system was in lockdown until around five in the evening). I received several hundred phone-calls that afternoon from people asking advice; most people I couldn’t help. Information was very scarce, and it was constantly changing.
Sadly the callers from London were very well used to terrorism. The IRA had attacked London on several occasions over the previous few decades. Indeed, I myself walked past the Harrods car bomb hen on a school trip. The people of London knew what to do in an emergency. They invoked the spirit of the Blitz.
Moving on then…well actually, first of all I just wanted to say above that I have been touched (ever so slightly) by terrorism for most of my life. So, I have a passing acquaintance with some of the issues surrounding terrorism and war.
Moving on then, I’d like to talk about what has been happening this year.
I wont bother recounting to the nth degree what has been happening this year. I’ll just give you a broad outline. There have been several terrorist attacks in France, and in North Africa (where a former colleague was killed). And simultaneously with this there has been an upsurge in the number of people fleeing the war in the middle east and seeking refuge in Europe.
This last Friday around eight people engaged in a terrorist attack in Paris that eventually killed over 100 people in a number of different places. And there has been uproar from the racist far right.
There are a few things I should explain.
The far right have very similar political views to the “Islamic” terrorists currently taking up lots of airtime. They hate equal marriage, for example, just like the ISIS terrorists.
They feed on fear. They have said for a while that Europe shouldn’t accept refugees from Syria or other war torn areas, and they have said that if we do then Europe will be attacked by refugee infiltrators.
Most dangerous of all is that they are on “our” side. And this is where we have problems. You see, the far-right are happy to hit social media and spread their message of hatred, recruiting fellow travelers as they go. But they don’t realise that the internet is available anywhere on the planet, and their outpourings of bile are acting as recruiting sergeants to extremist terrorists.
These people call Muslims animals, and call for all of them to be killed, because, after all, that’s what they want to do to us, right? Er no, if they did then we would know about it. Muslims make up a billion strong community of people. ISIS? Certainly less than a million. And the far-right see no problem in saying that Muslim people operate in a death cult, and simultaneously call for them to be exterminated.
The plain fact of the matter is that we are fighting a war that must be won, and won’t be until everyone is onside. At the moment young people have a choice between embracing “Western” civilisation, and turning to terrorism. And who can blame them from joining the terrorists when they see people calling for them to be exterminated. It’s our job to offer a more attractive option. And to act better than the terrorists.