The London attacks: Hatred must not triumph over hope

For the third time in three months – and the second in less than two weeks – I again find myself asking the question: is this the world I want my children to grow up in?

March 22nd: Westminster Bridge attack – five innocents killed.

May 22nd: Manchester Arena bombing – 22 dead.

June 3rd: London Bridge/Borough Market attacks – seven civilian fatalities.

And that’s just the UK. Cast the net more widely – Kabul, say – and the world seems particularly full of terrorism and tragedy right now.

In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester attack I focussed on the trauma of not just the families of the dead and injured but of those who survived. This time I want to focus more on the positives.

The best of humanity amid the worst of humanity

Yet again we had first responders – the police, medics, other emergency services – racing into the face of unknown danger with no thought other than to protect and preserve lives. It took eight minutes from initial call-out to the three suspected perpetrators being shot dead by armed officers. Just think how much more loss of life there might have been if it had been 18 rather than eight minutes. We owe these unseen, unnamed heroes a debt of gratitude.

And it’s not just the first responders. Think of all the off-duty personnel who came in to support in the hours following the attack. Police officers. Doctors and nurses. Support services. Think of the people who opened their doors to give strangers safe harbour for the night. Or those who offered emergency services food and drink. Or volunteered to give blood. Or any of the other small acts of kindness that, when viewed as a whole, mean so much.

London stands united, as it must – and that includes the Muslim community. Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, expressed his anger and condemnation in the strongest possible terms.

As ever …

As ever, there is fear and anger.

There always will be in the face of such atrocity. We scratch our heads wondering how any human can carry out such acts of apparently mindless violence against another.

The reality is such acts are anything but mindless. They are cold, calculated acts of retribution – an ‘eye for an eye’ – and entirely justified in the minds of those who plan and execute them, even if we cannot comprehend them from within our own frame of reference. Morally wrong, yes. Mindless, no.

As ever, there are calls to detain and deport anyone linked with suspected terrorist activity.

US president Donald Trump wasted no time in pressing again for the implementation of a travel ban against those countries linked with terrorism. Whatever the potential merits of such a policy, I cannot adequately express my disgust at a world leader seeking to exploit tragedy for political gain.

Are we ready to set aside the presumption of innocence that is the most basic tenet of our legal system and detain thousands of people without just cause? Personally I’m not, although I can see the merits of both sides of the argument.

Will deporting suspects protect our borders or will it serve only to further justify the cause and rally support for ISIS, creating further problems down the line? Isn’t this kind of division and fear exactly what those behind the attacks are seeking to achieve?

As ever, social media is awash with people offering their opinions and suggesting that the solution to the problem is simple.

It isn’t simple. Which is why we are where we are today. We have tried simple solutions. They haven’t worked. It was naive of us to think they ever would.

I wholeheartedly agree something has to be done. I’m far from sure that a ‘deport and detain’ approach will ever be a net positive.

Now what?

Unlike the many Facebook politicians and counter-terrorism experts out there, I don’t know how to solve the issue of the ongoing terrorist threat.

I don’t pretend that I’m not afraid of what might one day randomly happen to me, my family or my friends.

But I do know that hatred cannot be allowed to triumph over hope. Now more than ever, Britain and the world must stand strong and united, not fearful and divided.

So that’s what I will be talking to the kids about over the coming days, weeks and years. Hope is more than a four-letter word – it’s what we need to drive us forward and not become paralysed by fear. That’s my message to my children because that’s the world I want them to grow up in.

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