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Analysis Editor Picks International Terrorism

London Bridge Attack: Put Your House In Order, Boris

Miranda Husain

With elections looming large, the terror question has been framed as a domestic concern in the United Kingdom. This is good news in the short-term; especially for ethnic minorities, writes Miranda Husain 

The Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for the London Bridge terror attack this weekend. Asserting that Usman Khan acted in their name. Regardless of whether or not this is mere macho talk, one thing is clear. The British authorities were asleep at the wheel.

Topping the charge-sheet: the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), some three weeks ago, reduced the threat level from substantial to likely. No matter that Christmas always brings with it immense security concerns. This becomes all the more ludicrous given that IS promised a string of revenge attacks targeting the West. To avenge the US assassination of its leader — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — in October. 

And while Boris Johnson may try to wash his hands of responsibility towards this end, on the tenuous grounds that the JTAC operates independently of politicians, there is no skirting the issue that Khan was familiar to the state. As a student of notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary; known for radicalising his followers into taking up arms on foreign battlefields. While he remains careful not to break the social contract with Britain to the point of no return. 

Moreover, Khan was convicted back in 2012 on terror-related charges. Including plotting to both blow up the London Stock Exchange and set-up a militant training camp here in Pakistan. Yet he was released last year. Having served less than half his sentence; thereby contravening a judicial order that was rendered null and void when the Conservatives scrapped indeterminate sentencing for the protection of the public (IPP) that Labour had introduced in 2005. This is to say nothing of the cuts to police funding and the haphazard privatisation of probation services that have been part and parcel of Tory austerity measures.

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All of which could not have come at a worse time for the Prime Minister. Britons are readying to go ballot-boxing in less than two weeks and he had, up until now, been the polls’ favourite to walk the vote. Presently, murmurings of another hung parliament are growing increasingly louder. Never being one to miss a trick, BoJo is now exploiting this most recent tragedy as a rallying cry. Return him to Number 10, so the memo reads, and he will get tough on criminal justice reform. As if the last decade of missteps can erased in the next 12 days.

Be that as it may, the current political context has framed the terror question as a domestic concern. This is good news in the short-term; especially for ethnic minorities. Thus far, neither politicians nor the media has made much about Khan being of Pakistani origin. Meaning that absent is the rhetoric of ‘them’ hating us for ‘our’ beliefs and freedoms. The PM preferring to vow that the country “will never be cowed, or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack. And our values, our British values, will prevail”. Which may or may not be the same thing. 

Elsewhere, a handful of journalists and other commentators have hailed the bravery of Polish chef — not plumber — Łukasz, who jabbed Khan with an enormous Narwhal (whale) tusk. Ostensibly to taunt the government over its hardline anti-immigration policies. While such sentiments favouring an inclusive society are to be welcomed, when these are juxtaposed with (real) notions of untold courage— the lines become dangerously blurred. The fallout: immigrants are pitted against each other. With only the truly heroic deemed worthy of staying. Thereby making a mockery of the multicultural model. Though this has been under heavy scrutiny since 7/7; many pundits predicting its death-knell. Thus challenging the sincerity of those who continue to describe London’s ability to pull together as what makes the city great. Rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism notwithstanding.

As expected, the PM made no mention of the nexus between a militarised foreign policy and home-grown radicalisation. Sadly, this cannot be put down to pre-election wobbles alone. From Tony Blair to Gordon Brown to David Cameron to Theresa May to Boris Johnson the message has remained the same. The state bears no liability. However, the London mayor’s radio silence is more troublesome. After all, his boss — Jeremy Corbyn — routinely argues that repeated combatant interventions have “exacerbated rather than resolved” the terrorism conundrum. He did so in the immediate after aftermath of the Manchester bombings two years ago; with more than half of the British public agreeing with him at the time. And, again, in the wake of London Bridge. Hopefully, Sadiq Khan’s backwardness in coming forward is not rooted in a deep desire to see a change in the Labour leadership. Especially at this late stage in the game. 

If Britons genuinely want to see their country go from an aggressor nation to a peace-loving one — they would do well to look beyond the Brexit prism and vote for Jezza. 

Everyone and their cat says so. 

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