Yesterday, in shocking and tragic scenes broadcast across the world, London suffered its first terrorist attack for over a decade. The British capital had not seen similar tragedy since the 7/7 bombings which claimed 52 lives and injured countless more.
The attacks yesterday claimed the lives of four people, including PC Keith Palmer, a police officer on duty at the time. The attack injured dozens more and took place at the heart of British democracy in Westminster when a truck drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the Palace of Westminster, armed with a knife.
While the attacks themselves were, of course, shocking, what has been heart-warming has been London’s reaction. People from all sides have condemned the violence and expressed sympathy for the victims and their families without falling prey to the divisive anti-Islamic propaganda the far-right has, inevitably, tried to whip up.
When Tommy Robinson, ex EDL leader and Islamophobe, rushed to the scene of the attacks yesterday afternoon to spout his hate speech, he was ridiculed and branded a “vile opportunist”.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan released a statement yesterday vowing that “Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism”, and this sentiment has been mirrored across social media. The hashtag #WeStandTogether has been trending since the aftermath of the attacks yesterday evening with people rejecting the hatred that both those responsible for attacks and the far right are seeking to promote.
And it is just this solidarity and community support is ultimately what we need to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.
The fact that the assailant was British-born proves, once again, that the way to deal with extremism is not a “ban on immigrants or refugees”, but a need to prevent people within our communities from becoming radicalised by predatory extremists.
Whilst our Police are trying to discover the exact motives of the assailant, he was already known to MI5, indicating some level of concern. There may have been at least one sign that should have been noticed by those around him – his friends, family and community. Had this been the case, the attacks yesterday may have been prevented.
Today the news broke that Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old man born in Kent, was the assailant of the attack. Daesh took responsibility for the attacks, calling him a “soldier of the Islamic State”.
As far as we know, the assailant had never been to Daesh’s caliphate – meaning that he may have been indoctrinated in another way, potentially via the internet.
Radicalisation, from both groups such as Daesh or the far right, is a growing problem, particularly on the internet and one which parents and families are often unaware of or unsure how to deal with.
Countering this threat, as a community, is exactly what JAN Trust does with our Web Guardians© programme. We to prevent extremist radicalisation by educating parents about the dangers of extremism online so that they can counter these threats and, ultimately, ensure their children do not follow this same path.
To commemorate the victims, a service took place in front of Scotland Yard on Thursday morning, in front of the flame that burns as a tribute to all dead, and a vigil is planned for this evening at 6pm in Trafalgar Square.
At JAN Trust we want to express our deepest sympathies for all of the victims and their families and friends.
What we must now do is ensure that these attacks do not achieve their aim of dividing us but serve instead to unite us and work, together, so that such a tragedy is not allowed to happen again.