Bastille Day Terrorist Attack In Nice – The Enemy Which We Refuse To Name Strikes Again

Nice Attack - Truck - Terrorism - France

As #PrayForNice trends on Twitter and another European city is plunged into terror and tragedy, what action have we taken to name, confront and defeat the evil which threatens us?

The news and images coming from the French city of Nice on what should be the most celebratory of days for the French people – Bastille Day – are awful, and heartbreaking, and wearily familiar.

As of this time, 77 people are confirmed dead, mown down on the Promenade des Anglais by a truck driven at high speed and containing an arsenal of weapons and explosives. This is clearly an act of terror – the numerous bullet holes in the windshield of the blood stained truck a testament to the amount of force it took the security services to stop the vehicle. And of course this is the third time in nineteen months that the French have suffered a grievous, high profile terrorist attack on their soil – first Charlie Hebdo, then the Bataclan, both in Paris, and now the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

To this we can add the Brussels terrorist attacks in March this year and, looking beyond Europe, numerous deadly attacks in Turkey as well as the terrorist shootings in San Bernadino and Orlando.

This is the future. This is the kind of terrorism which we are now going to face – not truly grand attacks on the level of 9/11, where casualties run into the thousands, but a long, slow grind of relentless medium-sized attacks, often on lower-value targets or in second tier, provincial cities. Often their planning and execution may turn out to be quite crude – this is not the age of the cunning master plan coordinated from a supervillain’s lair, but of “quick and dirty” plots hatched by autonomous cells and all the more unsettling precisely because they do not strike where we expect.

Now, murder comes to the airport entrance before the security checkpoints, or to an unremarkable concert venue, or a nondescript office or the main strip of a seaside town. Places which with the best will in the world are impossible to defend 24/7.

Radical Islamist terror has moved firmly into the age of the lone wolf, or the quasi-autonomous sleeper cell.

Why? Think of it like WiFi. Terrorist networks can no longer safely rely on coordinating large scale attacks in the West from a remote location with a reasonable degree of confidence that they will go undetected. Therefore, if ISIS and other fundamentalist Islamist organisations cannot physically cooordinate logistics and dispatch operatives to conduct attacks in Western cities, they must resort to other, remote means.

When the traditional methods of internet, telephone and even face-to-face communication are at risk of being intercepted by the security services, proponents of fundamentalist Islamist ideology must instead rely on transmitting their ideology and broad objectives through more general means, including YouTube and social media, targeted at the right susceptible population – usually disaffected and alienated young Muslim men who do not feel connected to or fully invested in society. The leaders of this death cult then rely on some of their indoctrinated targets possessing sufficient initiative to become their own mini terrorist masterminds.

We saw this approach in San Bernadino last winter, and again in Orlando last month. As more facts emerge, it may become clear that the Nice attack followed this pattern. Alternatively, it may be that Europe’s porous border and chaotic influx of migrants allowed foreign terrorists to slip through the net and aid in the planning or execution of the attack (press reports currently indicate that ID found on the truck driver suggest that he is a 31-year-old with dual French-Tunisian nationality, but this ID could well be fake or stolen).

But what is already crystal clear is the stark, uncomfortable fact that since Paris and Brussels (or Madrid and London, if you want to cast back a decade) our leaders have done nothing – nothing at all – to meaningfully grapple with this scourge of Islamist terrorism. So terrified are they of being accused of intolerance or racism that all we hear is the furious insistence that these atrocities have “nothing to do with Islam“.

And it’s just false. Of course the barbarity in Nice has absolutely nothing to do with the peaceful, moderate Islam practise by millions of adherents in the West and elsewhere. But it cannot be denied that those who do commit mass murdering acts of terrorism often explicitly reference Islam as their inspiration and justification – and do so from a very literal reading of certain Islamic texts. Moderate Islam does not inspire terrorist attacks, clearly. But fundamentalist, radical Islam often does, and we need to admit as much, for if we cannot even name the threat which we face what chance do we have of overcoming it?

As Douglas Murray rightly pointed out in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

Contra the political leaders, the Charlie Hebdo murderers were not lunatics without motive, but highly motivated extremists intent on enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws in 21st-century Europe. If you do not know the ideology — perverted or plausible though it may be — you can neither understand nor prevent such attacks. Nor, without knowing some Islamic history, could you understand why — whether in Mumbai or Paris — the Islamists always target the Jews.

[..] We have spent 15 years pretending things about Islam, a complex religion with competing interpretations. It is true that most Muslims live their lives peacefully. But a sizeable portion (around 15 per cent and more in most surveys) follow a far more radical version. The remainder are sitting on a religion which is, in many of its current forms, a deeply unstable component. That has always been a problem for reformist Muslims. But the results of ongoing mass immigration to the West at the same time as a worldwide return to Islamic literalism means that this is now a problem for all of us. To stand even a chance of dealing with it, we are going to have to wake up to it and acknowledge it for what it is.

The cost of this furious pretence that Islam is totally unconnected to the “so called” Islamic State and the terror attacks committed in its name can now be measured in a growing toll of human lives. And the slickness with which we now mourn these events, with standardised tributes and modes of behaviour, only serves to emphasise our utter lack of coordination in preventing their recurrence.

As this blog commented after the recent Brussels attacks in March, charting the inevitability of the public grieving followed by zero meaningful action:

Impromptu shrines appear in a major square of the afflicted city, with candles, chalk drawings and sometimes a bit of impromptu John Lennon.

And the day closes with Europe and America’s major landmarks illuminated to resemble the national flag of the afflicted nation. They’re getting really good at that part now.

Fast forward a day, and plans are well afoot to grant even more powers to the well-meaning but overstretched security services – who were unable to make use of their current extensive powers to thwart the attack – and generally at the expense of our civil liberties. Particularly our rights to privacy and free speech.

Fast forward a month, and we have all moved on. Domestic political concerns, celebrity scandals and daily life have reasserted themselves.

I think we can all agree that we’ve got the public grief, cathartic expressions of solidarity and stern faced authoritarianism down to a fine art at this point.

When are we going to start acknowledging – and maybe even tackling – the root causes?

Unless our leaders can openly and unequivocally acknowledge that the terrorist scourge which sees murder brought to the streets of Europe on a near-monthly basis has its roots in a fundamentalist, literalist and militant strain of Islam, how are we ever to really get to grips with the issues of radicalisation and non-assimilation?

If the deaths of eighty slain people in Nice have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam then how do we hope to save young and impressionable Muslim schoolgirls in London from stealing away to Syria to join ISIS, or young and impressionable Muslim boys from falling under the seductive spell of jihadist recruiters?

If we cannot openly and comfortably name the enemy which we face – not an entire religion, but certainly a very real and present strain of Islam – then how do we even begin to formulate policies which will meaningfully reduce this threat over time?

The answer is that we cannot. We can clamp down further on our precious civil liberties, bartering away even more of our freedoms in the hope of purchasing additional security (and letting the terrorists win, since they count as a victory anything which diminishes our liberal democratic way of life). We can ramp up the surveillance state and clamp down on freedom of speech to make it look like we are doing something purposeful, even though the costs of such draconian measures far exceed the benefits. But none of these measures will stop two radicalised guys and a truck from repeating the horrors of Nice in Camden Town or Edinburgh.

It is impossible to create the perfectly secure country, and the closer one tries to get to this ideal, greater and greater are the liberties which must be traded away in exchange. Therefore, the only way to stop more Nice attacks from happening is to approach the problem from the other end and seek to tackle the radical, fundamentalist Islamist extremism.

And this is the one thing which our leaders, in their tragic fear of giving offence, shamefully refuse to do.


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Top Image: Guardian

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In Turkey, Journalists Sentenced To Jail For Charlie Hebdo Solidarity

Charlie Hebdo cover - Tout Est Pardonne

In Turkey, Theocracy – 1, Free Press – 0

Turkey takes another step towards fundamentalist theocracy as freedom of the press recedes even further.

Hurriyet Daily News reports:

Two journalists were sentenced to two years in prison on April 28 for republishing in their columns a cover of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo featuring an image of the Prophet Muhammad.

Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced daily Cumhuriyet journalists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya to two years on charges of “openly encouraging hate and enmity among people via the press” for reprinting the caricature of the Islamic prophet after the Jan. 7, 2015, attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 12 people.

However, the court ruled for the acquittal of the journalists on charges of “insulting people’s religious values” on the grounds that the criminal factors had not been constituted.

Some 1,280 people had filed a criminal complaint against Karan and Çetinkaya for republishing in their columns the cover of Charlie Hebdo, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his daughters Esra Albayrak and Sümeyye Erdoğan, his son Bilal Erdoğan, his son-in-law Energy Minister Berat Albayrak and his adviser Mustafa Varank.

So the climate for journalism in Turkey is now such that a despotic thin-skinned president and members of his parasitic family feel that it is appropriate to drag journalists before the court and have them convicted simply for carrying out objective reporting.

Closing down independent newspapers and converting them into pro-government propaganda outlets is apparently no longer enough. Individual journalists must also be persecuted and jailed for offending the sensibilities of the Turkish president, his close family members and a thousand or so other assorted religious fundamentalists who believe that their right to sail through life unoffended trumps the right of journalists to report the news.

The Telegraph outlines the wider negative trend:

But the sentencing comes amid a mushrooming crackdown on Turkish and international news media within the country. According to PEN International, some 28 writers and journalists were either detained or imprisoned in Turkey at the end of 2015 while more than 100 remained on trial, most for national security offenses.

Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, and the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, are currently on trial on trial behind closed doors on charges of revealing state secrets and could face multiple life sentences if found guilty.

International trial monitors and press freedom groups have condemned those proceedings, describing the case as an instance in which “journalism is on trial”.

And this is a country which entertains hopes of joining the European Union.

This is the regime which Europe Germany is scrambling to appease.

The sentencing of these journalists is unacceptable. But it is also exactly what many in Britain and the West tacitly condone when they leap to their feet in defence of the right of “marginalised” people to avoid having their religious faith and political opinions subjected to the same scrutiny, discussion and criticism as those from the “privileged” majority.

This is the legacy of every single person who supports the concept of “hate speech”, or whose condescending, neo-colonialist views of Muslims and other minorities hold that they are inherently less intelligent, less capable of engaging in debate and more prone to violence than the white majority, who should indulge them in their fragility or violent excesses like understanding parent figures.

As soon as one accepts the racist notion that some people are inherently less capable than others of having their beliefs and opinions challenged or even mocked, one opens the door to civil or criminal penalties for doing so.

When the Metropolitan Police arrest a man in London for tweeting something deemed by completely unconnected third parties to be “Islamophobic”, it becomes that much easier for authoritarian regimes in parts of the world with weaker democratic traditions to claim that they are only following “best practice”, that their despotic excesses are just a nothing but a difference of degree. And at the very least, this makes it much harder for Britain to remonstrate with Turkey. How can we lecture Turkey that arresting journalists is abhorrent when we do the same thing ourselves?

It is time for Britain and the West to reoccupy the depressingly deserted moral high ground. Yes, criticise Turkey for their government’s chilling suppression of free speech and a free press, and yes, proclaim that you are still Charlie (but only if you really are).

But as we do so, we should not allow the beam in beleaguered Turkey’s eye to distract us from the steadily-growing speck in our own.


Freedom of Speech - Free Speech

h/t Brendan O’Neill and  Mashable

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One Year Later, Are We Still Charlie?

Paris - Charlie Hebdo Anniversary - Je Suis Charlie

As we pass the one year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris – the terrorist atrocity which prompted us to declare Je Suis Charlie in support of free speech – are we still Charlie, one year on? Were we ever?

This past week saw the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, a sickening assault on journalism and free speech, and the worst thing to happen to France until the Paris attacks of 13 November ensured that 2015 would end much as it started for Europe: in the shadow of Islamist terrorism.

At the time of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, many of us rallied to the cause of the small, satirical newspaper which found itself in the crosshairs of a primitive, totalitarian ideology, and we declared “Je Suis Charlie”.

It was a nice gesture, even if it wasn’t strictly true. Though David Cameron was eager to be seen marching arm-in-arm with other world leaders through the streets of Paris in support of free speech, those of us back in London knew that any British newspaper attempting to publish some of the satirical cartoons that Charlie Hebdo published would have been vilified, sued and shut down, and its editor would likely languishing in a British prison cell.

Things didn’t get much better as 2015 progressed, as Glenn Greenwald notes in his latest column for The Intercept:

It’s been almost one year since millions of people — led by the world’s most repressive tyrants — marched in Paris ostensibly in favor of free speech. Since then, the French government — which led the way trumpeting the vital importance of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings — has repeatedly prosecuted people for the political views they expressed, and otherwise exploited terrorism fears to crush civil liberties generally. It has done so with barely a peep of protest from most of those throughout the West who waved free speech flags in support of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

That’s because, as I argued at the time, many of these newfound free speech crusaders exploiting the Hebdo killings were not authentic, consistent believers in free speech. Instead, they invoke that principle only in the easiest and most self-serving instances: namely, defense of the ideas they support. But when people are punished for expressing ideas they hate, they are silent or supportive of that suppression: the very opposite of genuine free speech advocacy.

[..] In the weeks after the Free Speech march, dozens of people in France “were arrested for hate speech or other acts insulting religious faiths, or for cheering the men who carried out the attacks.” The government “ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.” There were no marches in defense of their free speech rights.

Glenn Greenwald goes on to express his contempt for the fair-weather free speech advocates who are all to eager to shout their support for speech which offends people they happen to dislike, while simultaneously demanding that the authorities clamp down on speech which offends them or people with whom they sympathise.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the newly re-elected Conservative government was getting ready to “defend” free speech by expressing impatience with the fact that they did not have  more freedom to harass citizens acting in accordance with the law.

When David Cameron announced draconian new security measures, impatiently proclaiming “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'”, this blog retorted:

These measures have the look and feel of a side which feels unable to win the argument in favour of British and western values through open debate, and so seeks to impose them by force of law instead.

A truly free and liberal society would not need to take such draconian steps as requiring “extremists” (never defined, and certainly not necessarily convicted) to submit advance copies of public remarks to the police for review and censoring, an astonishing proposal. But our society is becoming less and less free by the day, opting instead for security and a quiet life.

And at its depressing heart, this is what it comes down to – a desire for cloistered security above all else. On the economy, on foreign affairs and now on terrorism, our politicians have decided that we are too frightened and worn down by the dangers and threats of this world to face our challenges as a strong, independent nation.

But government has not been solely to blame. The desire to trade liberty for a chimerical sense of security has been coming from the bottom-up, with an increasing number of citizens – particularly those on the Left who ostentatiously proclaim their concern for issues of “social justice” – insisting that core liberties such as the right to free speech should be curtailed when they negatively infringe on the feelings of another person.

This corrosive new development has its roots in academia and the university environment, where a generation of liberal professors espousing political correctness as their religion are finally beginning to reap what they sowed – a new generation of coddled adult baby students who require trigger warnings, safe spaces and dawn-to-dusk parenting by their colleges just to make it through the day.

These New Age Censors and their petty authoritarianism are toxic to free speech, and their growing influence has already resulted in calls to outlaw clapping and booing, tearful temper tantrums about dress codes, stifling ideas by labelling them ‘problematic’, the insistence on safe spaces and mandatory sexual consent workshops.

As I recently explained, deep down this has nothing to do with “social justice”, but instead is all about gaining power by wrestling control over the language and laying verbal land mines with the intention of destroying opponents who – regardless of how they actually behave – happen simply to say the “wrong” thing:

That’s where the New Age Censors, the Stepford Students, the resurgent activist Left step in, always watching over your shoulder and always quick and eager to tell you when you have crossed one of the many invisible lines that they are busy drawing across our political and social discourse. Only the telling always seems to take the form of a social media lynching rather than a friendly pointer.

When the rules over precisely what can be said and how it must be phrased become so fiendishly complex that we are all liable to fall over them at some point, it grants enormous power to the gatekeepers, those swivel-eyed young activists at the forefront of modern identity politics. Not only do they get to write the rules, they and they alone get to sit in judgement as to whether those rules have been violated.

[..] Who knew that the petty tyrants of today would be cherubic-faced, smiley student activists, chanting mantras about keeping us safe as they imprison us in their closed-minded, ideological dystopia?

As far as 2015 Year In Reviews go, all of this makes for depressing reading. Indeed there are many reasons to be concerned for the future of free speech and civil liberties in general, particularly when many of our fellow citizens seem intent on destroying our freedoms from within.

And yet there have been some good news stories too, providing small glimmers of hope. One such case has been the exoneration of a Northern Irish pastor, James McConnell, who found himself on trial for sending “grossly offensive” communications following a sermon in which he described Islam as “a doctrine spawned in hell”.

This was a spiteful sting by the prosecution. McConnell’s sermon – in which the 78-year-old pastor said some highly unpleasant and inflammatory things about Islam – had been recorded and then later posted on the internet, allowing the authorities to accuse him of “causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network”.

Too often, such show trials have resulted in conviction and a prison sentence, which in this instance could have been six months. But in this case, Judge Liam McNally, threw the case out, saying “the courts need to be very careful not to criticise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive”. If only this legal interpretation was more widely shared and disseminated throughout the English and Scottish legal systems, from the UK Supreme Court on downwards.

But the truly pleasing aspect of this case is the fact that one of the people who spoke outside the court in support of James McConnell was a Muslim academic, a senior research fellow in Islamic studies at the Westminster Institute named Muhammad al-Hussaini.

Taking a brave stance in support of speech which he himself must have found very distasteful, al-Hussaini nonetheless defended Pastor James McConnell’s right to say hateful things about the religion of Islam.

The Guardian reported at the time:

Speaking outside Belfast magistrates court to hundreds of McConnell’s supporters, Muhammad al-Hussaini, a senior research fellow in Islamic studies at the Westminster Institute, said he was in the city to back McConnell’s right to free speech.

Hussaini said: “This is possibly one of the most important things at our juncture in history; it could be the make or break for the continued survival of our planet actually.

“Against the flaming backdrop of torched Christian churches, bloody executions and massacres of faith minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is therefore a matter of utmost concern that, in this country, we discharge our common duty steadfastly to defend the freedom of citizens to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs – restricting only speech which incites to physical violence against others.

“Moreover, in a free and democratic society we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say.”

At a time when freedom of speech is just as much under attack from safe space zealots and our own government as it is from radical Islamic terrorism, it is especially important that we stand in solidarity with those who defend free speech, and particularly those who have the moral courage to defend the speech that they personally hate.

In this regard, civil libertarians owe a debt of gratitude to Muhammad al-Hussaini and others like him. For in his defence of the rights of pastors – or anybody else – to say what they please, so long as they do not actively incite violence against another, this Muslim scholar is doing far more to defend the ancient British and enlightenment values of freedom and liberty than

In fact, one could quite easily say that al-Hussaini is more authentically British (in terms of extolling and living by the values which we supposedly hold dear) than our own government, the grunting anti-Muslim far-right and most of the academic safe space crowd put together.

This is the unusual situation in which we now find ourselves, with a British population and government cowed simultaneously by Islamic terrorism and by Islamophobia seriously discussing banning “hate preachers” like Donald Trump (of all people) from entering Britain, while it falls to a Muslim academic to stand up in defence of the free speech which the West supposedly holds so dear.

This landscape is not encouraging; few of us passed the Charlie Hebdo Test when those terrible shots rang out on 7 January 2015, and fewer still would do so now, based on their words and actions since that heinous attack.

But when a nation begins to forget its own values and once dearly-held principles, it is of some consolation on this first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo shootings to see the flame of liberty being kept alive in some unexpected places, and by unexpected – but very welcome – custodians.

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Paris Terror Attacks: The World Turns On Its Dark Side

Paris Terror Attacks - Eiffel Tower Dark - 2

Our hearts break for Paris and the French people. For the sake of the victims and their families, our response to these latest terror attacks must be more than the standard denial and clichéd mistakes

Since awful showpiece terrorist attacks like those that tore through the heart of Paris last night are becoming a regular occurrence, it is worth reminding ourselves of the standard political response in their aftermath. It goes something like this:

Day 0: Expressions of shock, sorrow, anger and solidarity

Day +1: Insistence that now is a time for mourning, not asking difficult questions about how or why the atrocities were committed

Day +1, later: The first difficult questions are asked, particularly of the government and security services

Day +2: The intelligence services dust off their wishlist of draconian new powers, and strongly suggest that if only they already had these powers, the attack could have been avoided

Day +2, later: Some brave soul pokes their head above the parapet and tries to start a discussion about the link between unlimited multiculturalism and homegrown extremism, to near universal c0ndemnation

Day +3: The official narrative is established – “we will defeat this terror by giving our intelligence services the tools they need, and making radical or hateful speech illegal”

And so, within a week, the status quo reasserts itself. More civil liberties infringements, more free speech crackdowns, more government surveillance – and then more terror attacks, weeks or months later.

The status quo is not working. As this blog noted shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks:

Attempting to start a meaningful conversation about the root causes of Islamist terrorism is, apparently, highly unseemly and inappropriate so soon after an attack. And yet those who make this claim never explain why talking about the root causes of Islamist terrorism in its immediate aftermath is opportunistic and wrong, while conveniently it happens to be the perfect time for governments to demand sweeping, draconian new powers. And that is exactly what we now see.

One thing should now be absolutely clear, though apparently it needs constant restating: There can never be enough surveillance, never enough restrictions on movement, never enough laws banning hate speech to prevent a small number of determined, radicalised citizens – and likely non-citizens who have taken advantage of Europe’s loose borders – from going on the rampage and causing the kind of bloody mayhem that we now see, again, in Paris.

With the exception of the Stade de France, these were soft targets. It is simply not possible to protect every restaurant, every corner bistro or every theatre from a jihadist army of two who turn up in a car, spray innocent people with bullets and speed off to their next target. Concrete road blocks, razor wire, metal detectors and CCTV are of no use against these nimble threats.

So whatever else is said in the aftermath of these latest Paris attacks, let no one pretend that more government surveillance and more draconian crackdowns on free speech – either that of the Islamists or the Islamophobes – are the right answer. At best, these policies – favoured by the French and British governments – are a sticking plaster on an open wound, addressing the symptom but not the problem.

And that problem is the same as it was on 7 January, when Islamist gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, massacring journalists and shoppers at a Parisian kosher supermarket. The problem is that there are people living among us – a very small, but determinedly growing number, either citizens or recent migrants – who may hold the same passports as us and walk the same streets as us, but who feel no connection with us.

Those who propose nothing but even more security would apparently be content to live in a society where a small, segregated minority still hate us, but are thwarted in their attempts to kill us by omnipotent security services. They would be happy to live in a divided, ghettoised, multicultural dystopia, so long as the terror plots are always successfully thwarted.

Those of us who believe in the western and enlightenment values of freedom and individual liberty should not be satisfied with this goal – which is unattainable anyway, since perfect security can never be achieved. We should want a society which is open and welcoming to those who wish to come and contribute, but not credulously undiscriminating in accepting everyone. We should want a society where people feel bonds of kinship and affection which transcend racial and religious boundaries, where a healthy sense of patriotism ensures that there are common shared values which unite us all. But when patriotism and a robust defence of western values is seen as gauche, unseemly and culturally insensitive, there is no way to transmit these essential values to those who most need to receive them.

No government action taken by France in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks could likely have prevented these new attacks on Friday 13 November – simply not enough time has elapsed for any bold new government policies to have taken effect. But appallingly, neither have any bold new government policies been proposed, let alone implemented. France still struggles with the existence of economically deprived, socially isolated immigrant communities who feel no allegiance to the country where they live – people who often feel more Muslim than French. Weak to nonexistent border enforcement makes it impossible to properly who control who comes and goes.

Meanwhile, the West – and Europe in particular – is in the midst of its own identity crisis, increasingly uncomfortable defending the principles of liberal democracy, free speech and tolerance. Many would rather bury their heads in the sand and deny the existence of the problem than insist that everyone abide by certain values and standards of behaviour. Too often, a warped strain of Islam has been allowed to run side-by-side with Western culture in a dual, effectively segregated society. And the growing Western culture of victimhood only adds fuel to the jihadist fire.

As Frank Furedi wrote on the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings:

The redefinition of terrorism as an ideological competitor is linked to the decline in the self-belief of the West. Even before the events of 11 September 2001, never mind 7 July 2005, there was more than a hint of defensiveness about the ability of Western values to prevail over those of their hostile opponents. One conservative American observer gave voice to this sentiment, and concluded that ‘protecting Western culture from foreign assault requires domestic revival’. A decade before 9/11 he warned that ‘the 21st century could once again find Islam at the gates of Vienna, as immigrants or terrorists if not armies’. Today there is little evidence of a domestic revival. Indeed, Western governments are sensitive about their very limited capacity for inspiring their own publics. The problem of engaging the public and gaining its support is one of the most striking features of the post-9/11 political landscape.

[..] There are signs that, in the decade since 7/7, some sections of the British establishment have woken up to the fact that what drives homegrown jihadism is the failure of society to clarify its values and way of life. The constant calls from Cameron and others to teach British values in schools represents an indirect recognition of the absence of such values from young people’s lives. But the values that inspire must be lived; they can’t be recycled through a shopping list of good intentions. Until there is a more courageous attempt to address this problem, tragedies like the London bombings of a decade ago will always be a possibility. The real threat is not the poisonous ideology of Islamic State, but Western society’s failure to live out and stand up for the principles of liberal democracy.

As it is in Britain, so it is in France. Neither country has done enough to tackle the sense of alienation or the crisis of British / French values which make radicalisation possible.

Tim Stanley touches on these points in his moving tribute to Paris in the Telegraph following yesterday’s terror attacks:

The brutality of this attack shows that we are not dealing with an enemy that can be negotiated with, only confronted and beaten. Perhaps that confrontation will be existential. Are we doing enough to integrate everyone, enough to fight poverty, enough to eradicate prejudice? Are we confident enough about our own values to teach and promote them? Are our security measures appropriate? Do we all have to come to terms with living with permanent anti-terror measures (I hope not). And what will our society look like as a consequence of this conflict? Less free, perhaps?

Are we doing enough to integrate everyone? I don’t think that any French or British politician could say that enough is being done. Worse still, it isn’t even a top priority at the moment.

Are we confident enough about our own values? Clearly not – in many cases, we have so little confidence in our own values that we fail to insist that others (recent immigrants and segregated communities) abide by the enlightenment values which have served us so well. In fact, sometimes we make an ostentatious virtue of parading our tolerance of thoroughly anti-enlightenment values, in warped service to “multiculturalism”.

Are our security measures appropriate? Our intelligence services will walk a tightrope here, insisting that they do everything they can to keep us safe, while making clear that if we do not grant them additional powers, any future blood spilled will be on our hands.

But Tim Stanley’s final question is the most pertinent: Do we all have to come to terms with living with permanent anti-terror measures?

That question is best answered with another question: What concrete actions are we taking that might feasibly lead to the rolling back of the semi-permanent anti-terror measures and powers which are now a depressingly familiar part of life? What one single thing are we doing that might mean we need less security and less surveillance a decade from now?

The regrettable answer is that we are doing virtually nothing. The world continues to turn on its dark side, and we can reasonably look forward to a future of more random terror, more sombre presidential addresses and the familiar sight of militarised police SWAT teams crawling over our major cities. This is the new normal, and nothing we are presently doing is going to change that fact.

It is now Day +1. This time, can we break with rotten, failed convention and actually talk about root causes?

Paris Terror Attacks - One World Trade Center - New York

Top Image: Eiffel Tower, darkened after the 13 November attacks: Auskar Surbakti Twitter feed

Bottom Image: One World Trade Center, New York, lit in French colours: Jon Swaine Twitter feed

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This Week’s Cowardly Assault On Liberty Comes To You Courtesy Of David Cameron

David Cameron Paris Attack Charlie Hebdo 3


It is nearly one week since murderous Islamic extremists launched their three-day campaign of terror across Paris, striking at one of the core pillars of western democratic society: a free press exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech. But before the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the kosher market siege have even been laid to rest, David Cameron and his government have started planning their own assault on the rights of the individual and the foundations of a free society.

Of course, David Cameron’s assault is couched in the gentle, persuasive diplomatic language of the politician. There will be no masked men clad in black, no sudden hail of gunfire and no hostages taken – unless you count the right to live our lives free from intrusive snooping from a government that believes it can keep us completely safe, if only it knows enough about us all.

The Guardian provides a good summary of the enhanced laws and powers that David Cameron and the security services want to take for themselves:

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