The vigil in Manchester on Tuesday night was undeniably moving. The assurances that we will stand together, we will not let terrorism win, love is stronger than hate, and so on, were resonant. And yet … and yet … that is what we always do. Politicians jostle to repeat the same platitudes. Maybe the threat level is heightened for a week or two. We debate the percentage of the anti-radicalisation budget that goes to the government’s disputed “Prevent” strategy. Then the dogs bark, and the caravan moves on. Until the next time.
Allison Pearson summed up the point beautifully:
“Even before their bodies were cold, the great and the good were crowding on to the airwaves to murmur their self-soothing mantras about hope being stronger than fear, strong, vibrant communities, keep calm and carry on, businesses as usual. How dare they? They insult the dead, who deserve the country to be outraged and anguished on their behalf. How can we be calm when our children are considered a legitimate target for mass murder?”
One theme to emerge is that the bomber was a loner, representing no one. Responding to a tweet saying that integration has not worked, Tim Montgomerie wrote “It largely has. 99.9% of Muslims are good neighbours”. I responded by re-tweeting some Pew research indicating that in the UK, 24% of Muslims and 35% of young Muslims express some sympathy for suicide bombing. Rather more than the 0.1% implied by Tim. My Bête Noire Professor Michael Merrifield responded with an alternative study showing that only 4% of British Muslims sympathise with extremists. But as I pointed out, even if Merrifield’s figures are right, at 4% it’s still forty times Tim’s estimate.
Peter Whittle on Twitter quoted Mayor Andy Turnham: “The bomber represents no one but himself”. I responded “The bomber (so far as we can judge) represents a large and determined terrorist death cult which is a threat to all of us”. Of course not all Muslims (nor even a majority of Muslims) are terrorists. But we face a large and well-resourced terrorist organisation which claims to represent Islam, and is steeped in a highly conservative and paranoid interpretation of the faith. To pretend that we can deal with the terrorism without responding to the distortion of the religion is fanciful and naïve.
The idea that the bomber was a maverick loner is further undermined by a Telegraph headline “South side of city (Manchester) is a breeding ground for Jihad”. It sounds more like Molenbeek, the notorious jihadist suburb of Brussels which harboured the Paris bombers, than a suburb of the City of Manchester, standing together to face down the terror threat. It is clear that UK security services are anticipating further attacks.
I noted an interesting comment from Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered MP Jo Cox. He suggests that the only alternatives are (A) to turn the other cheek; or (B) “To build internment camps and hold the billion Muslims on the planet responsible for the actions of a few”. Admittedly he does suggest some other measures, but they are all rather vague generalities like “building stronger communities”. Haven’t we been trying to do that through all the years of multiculturalism?
I suggest that there are things we can do. For a start, we should set aside the ECHR and deport foreign nationals whom we realistically suspect of jihadism. Second, we should deny entry and withdraw passports from British citizens who seek to return from jihad (yes, there are legal problems, but we face an emergency). We should identify imams who preach jihad, and deport them (or if British, detain them – incitement to violence is a crime). We should close mosques that give a platform to hate preachers.
Then schools. It is evident that some Muslim schools are hotbeds of Wahhabism and anti-Western values. They should be closed. I’ve struggled for a long time with the apparent discrimination of closing Muslim schools but not other faith schools. But it seems that only in Muslim schools (or some Muslim schools) are anti-Western values systematically promoted, and when we are faced with Islamic terrorism, there is every justification for closing them.
We should ban the burqa. You cannot be integrated into Western society with your face covered. And if you aren’t prepared to be part of Western society, you shouldn’t be here.
Finally, perhaps the most radical point. As a broadly libertarian politician, I am hugely reluctant even to type the word “internment”, but I am coming around to the view that the threat we face – the children slaughtered in Manchester – is on such a scale that we have to think the unthinkable. No, Mr. Brendan Cox, we do not want to build internment camps for the world’s billion Muslims. But we need at least to consider internment for the 3000 or so jihadist suspects on our streets. We are horrified that the Manchester bomber was “known to the police” yet still allowed to go to Libya, to return, and to carry out his atrocity. Yet we have to recognise that it is impossible for the security forces to monitor 3000 people.
I was relieved to find I was not alone in what some may consider an extreme view. I re-tweeted Arron Banks on Wednesday morning: “We should intern people on the terrorist watch and properly investigate them”. I will not say at this time that we should necessarily do so. But I believe it is time to have the debate.