و رفعنا لک ذکرک محمدﷺ

October 22,2019, ,Weather : °

Time to Tear Down the Barriers of Fear

08 Apr 2017
Time to Tear Down the Barriers of Fear

By Yvonne Ridley

SO we might never know why someone hired a car and committed the murderous attack on a group of innocent people in London before turning his attentions on a policeman stabbing him to death.

 And yet the media has delivered a huge goal to Daesh by its round-the-clock coverage examining in minute detail every aspect of the 90 second attack. The first three days, in the absence of any real facts other than the subsequent identities of those killed and how they died, was all speculative.

 It remains to be seen if the Swedish people do the same after at least one mad man with murderous intent did the same in Stockholm this week.

The failed terror project which calls itself the Islamic State jumped on the media bandwagon immediately declaring it was one of their "soldiers" who brought death and destruction to Westminster. However, since they couldn't even name their dead "soldier" and all subsequent chatter coming out of the Daesh headquarters in Raqqa failed to glorify or even mention the incident further, I think we can discount this as a blatant lie.

I've got no doubt the same desperate outfit will issue a similar statement before the weekend claiming the carnage in Sweden as their work however I suspect the Swedish media will give a more measured response and reaction to their counterparts in the UK. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has already insisted that the terror attack will not be allowed to undermine Sweden's democracy.

As a journalist, I am conflicted by the coverage because we are trained to rinse out every detail for any sort of major story but there is a balance to be struck when it comes to terrorism. We know that the aim of any terror organisation is to generate as much publicity as it possibly can and those in Daesh, responsible or not, must be delighted with the headlines and 24/7 news coverage of the London attack.

During three decades from the 70s London was the target of "shoe string" terrorism virtually every day. Hoax bomb calls had to be taken seriously and Underground tube station would be sealed off, closed and searched. However, unless you lived in that particular area you wouldn't have known about it anywhere because the media collectively ignored hoax calls, no matter the disruption caused to peoples' lives especially in central London.

As a result, few outside of London knew the full extent of our lives being disrupted on an almost daily basis.

The so-called terrorists arising from the Irish Troubles were ignored so they failed in their mission to impact on the lives of Londoners and those living in other major towns and cities in the UK. Such incidents were given a wide berth by journalists and politicians while the police and other authorities quietly got on with the business of making sure we continued to move and operate freely.

In other words, the terrorists failed to disrupt or impact on our lives and certainly weren't given the oxygen of publicity for their cause.

More than a century ago tens of thousands took to the streets and campaigned so that women could vote in Britain; one woman Emily Davison who was born in my native North of England, paid for the struggle of equality with her life. The heroic work of the suffragette movement can be seen every time there is an election.

While the Westminster Parliament still has to catch up to the Scottish Parliament when it comes to equal gender representation, it is thanks to the efforts of the suffragettes and other democracy movements throughout the UK that our parliaments operate the way they do.

Do you imagine for one moment that some cowardly individual who drove a car into schoolchildren, tourists and Londoners can destroy our hard won freedoms, liberty and democracy or the work of the suffragettes and every other campaign group that promotes democratic values?

Sadly, today some of those hard won freedoms and liberties might be diminished by the Westminster government because of one, twisted individual. Since the ubiquitous cry of "Allahu Akbar" wasn't even uttered by this particular lone wolf, his cowardly act might not even have been driven by any skewed religious ideology.

What we do know about him is that he was a petty, violent criminal with a short fuse. In truth I'm not interested in him in the slightest. The only names and lives I'm interested in are those who were killed or injured - they're the ones we should be remembering, not some depraved skuzzbucket. And the same reaction goes for what happened in Sweden on Friday.

How we should report these acts of terrorism is up for debate but what shouldn't be up for discussion is how we can reduce or dilute our freedoms and liberty or an knee jerk reaction by way of new laws. But that is exactly what is happening at the British Government attempts to introduce more security measure.

I remember my first assignment in London as a cub reporter in the 70s visiting Downing Street. Accompanied by the Westminster Press Chief Parliamentary Correspondent, we walked into Downing Street unchallenged and were able to go right up to the door of Number 10 where a uniformed constable was standing armed with nothing more than a smile.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power when the gates and security were first introduced turning the famous street into a no-go area and we can see the security measures set in place around the Westminster Parliament today. This is a direct result of terrorist attacks over the last three decades and it is a shame we have reacted in such a way.

We must not give in to the politics of fear as you have in America. I know there are swathes of citizens who wake up frightened and go to bed frightened because of the psychological impact of 9/11. The Bush Administration reminded Americans of 9/11 on an almost daily basis and any time new security measures were suggested US President George W Bush invoked the memory of 9/11 to ensure an easy ride for his legislation. We must not let this sort of fear affect our lives nor let our politicians whip us up into such a state of frenzy and hysteria that we will hand over our freedoms and liberties to them.

And sadly, that is what I see with the latest incumbent to The White House, Donald Trump. His 'Muslim Ban' is designed to create fear and we read about the backlash on US Muslims from this side of The Atlantic. if you go to bed frightened and wake up frightened and let the authorities reduce your freedoms and liberties then you are surrendering to the terrorists.

I am full of admiration for the way in which Norway dealt with its own version of 9/11 when an extremist from the Far Right killed eight people by detonating a bomb on July 22 2011 in Oslo and then shot dead another 69 at a summer camp on the island of Utoya. He was put on trial in August 2012 and convicted of mass murder and terrorism.

There was no special court, no over-the-top security. He was treated like an ordinary common criminal which seemed to offend his ego because the message was clear: "You are no one special and you are not going to disrupt our lives again." And nor has he been allowed to intrude on the lives of Norwegians since. 

The only way we can stand up to terrorists is to refuse to change our lives because of them and we must get that message through to our politicians as well. Tell Trump to stop trying to instil the politics of fear or attempt to introduce more security and restraints on your freedoms and liberties because of the actions of those who want to strike terror into the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens.

I do not want to see armed police looking like RoboCop patrolling our streets like they do in America but I'm afraid that more and more police in Britain are being given weapons. Instead of building more barriers and walls we should be tearing them down - how can we enjoy our democracy, freedoms and liberties if we wake up scared, go to bed scared and have our everyday lives monitored by a Big Brother-style state which wants to screen our computer and telephone networks and our every day movements? Does North America really want to turn in to North Korea? Think about it ..

(Yvonne Ridley is an author and journalist living in the UK. Her latest books is called TORTURE: Does it work? Interrogation issues and effectiveness in the Global War on Terror. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Torture-Interrogation-issues-effectiveness-Global-x/dp/1782668306 )

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