London
Op-ed

London under Terror

 

By Professor Waheed Uz Zaman Tariq

London is a great city. I remembered having landed there in the months of June, 1985. It was a friendly city and in a few weeks’ time, I was familiar with its traffic, life, leisure and routine. My wife joined me after three months and was astonished to see that I was familiar with all its ways and moved freely, without asking anybody. She had often found me losing my way, back in Pakistan. I lived at Edgware Road, London and started working at St Thomas Hospital, for my professional training. I used to take green district line to Westminster station and crossed the road through the tunnel, which led to the Houses of the Parliament. I took a turn before entering the Parliament and crossed the bridge of Tames and found my way to the hospital. From my pace of work, I could see the Hoses of Parliament and could hear the hourly voice of the big bang.  In spent in London there months and shifted to Manchester but made a visit there almost every month during the next four years.  With the exception of odd few voices, I did not find anything which would be displeasing to me. I remember my trips to Hyde’s Park, London Bridge, Trafalgar Square, different museums and often passed outside the Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. There was no need to much security and all was peaceful.

The things changed, over the time and there was more suspicion and vigilance in the eyes of cops now; the phenomenon which has gradually developed over the time.  Few months ago we were in London. Indeed, they have every right to take all possible measure for the security of their country.  On the whole, London looked normal and we did not notice anything which could make us uncomfortable. In brief, we loved London and took it as a motherly city, which has often taken us in her lap. We respect the life, culture, values and tradition of London. Indeed, when you visit and stay in a foreign land, you have to follow the local customs and traditions.

When I heard of three boys deliberately crashed their van to the passer-by on the pavement, in the Southwark district of London, near the London Bridge and then stabbing the innocent people there, I was shocked.  It was June, the third, 2017. Then, the men ran to the nearby Borough Market pub and restaurant area, where they stabbed people with long knives. Altogether eight people were killed and dozens were badly injured. The victims were all innocent visitors and tourists. The pubs of the area were jam packed and these people have selected the timing, when they could inflict the maximum damage. The attackers wanted to inflict maximum number of casualties and create panic.

There were three attackers; a chef, a clerk and a suspicious Italian. They were all killed by the police, during the attack. They came from different backgrounds and ethnicities. Khuram Shazad Butt (born 20 April 1986) was a British national, whose parents had taken political asylum. He was born at the town of Jhelum, Pakistan. He was brought up in Britain and lived in Plaistow. He was married and had two children. His neighbours had been reporting to police for his aberrant behaviour and his attempt to radicalise local children. The local Muslim community kept a distance from him because of his arrogance and short temperedness. He was vocal in his criticism on the dress code of ladies in London. The metropolitan police knew him as a devout member of the banned extremist group alMuhajiroun. Khuram Butt called other Muslims as “murtad” (traitor in Arabic, a person who has left Islam after being a Muslim). He had a degree in Business and worked in the London Transport.  He had been staging rallies against the regime in Pakistan. He had visited only twice to Pakistan and his last visit there was four years ago.  There was link found with Pakistan, for his radical views and activities. In his community, he was known for his extremist ideology and was barred from two local mosques and worshipped at two others.  In 2016 he was spotted on a Channel 4 TV documentary “The Jihadis Next Door”, arguing with police over the unfurling of an ISIS black flag in Regent’s Park. A friend of him thought that he had been radicalised by the YouTube videos of the American Muslim hate preacher Ahmad Musa Jibril. The police and MI5 knew of Butt and he was investigated in 2015 but his status was moved into the lower echelons”.

The second attacker was Redouane (born 31 July 1986). He claimed to be either Moroccan or Libyan, but was not previously known to police. The third of them was Youssef Zaghba (born 1995 in Fez, Morocco. He was an Italian national and had been stopped at Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport by Italian officers, as he had IS-related materials on his mobile phone and was travelling to Istanbul. He was subsequently, continuously monitored in Italy and that the information about him was passed to the British authorities. After moving to London, he visited Italy once for ten days and was kept under close surveillance.

How these boys have gathered together and made a group may be anybody’s guess. As the situation is becoming clear, they are part of a bigger network. It means that such dangerous groups have made their presence in the West. Obviously, they do not make a part of mainstream Muslim society and all Imams of London have refused to conduct their funeral prayers. The Lord Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan is also a Muslim and his father came from Pakistan.  People of London have faith in him and he has appealed the Londoners to stay united and avoid any dent appearing in the society. The extended family members of Khuram Butt in Pakistan have been investigated by Pakistani authorities and they have also rejected the heinous crime committed by him, in string words. The other two members of the group had North African origin and much is not known about their background.

The incidence has brought a bad name to Muslims, despite the fact that it is nothing to do with mainstream Islam. British society had been multi-ethnic and tolerant, where people may follow their faith, without any worry. People there are generally educated and polite. Then why such people indulge to crimes against the humanity and kill innocent people. Much depends upon the parents and schools to educate them and build their personality. The availability of all fanatic material on the social sites of internet is a source of radicalisation. These sites need to be blocked. Surveillance of suspicious activities has to be stringent and there should be more intelligence sharing.  The British Prime Minister has very rightly said, “Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time. But it cannot be defeated through military intervention alone. It will not be defeated through the maintenance of a permanent, defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skilful its leaders and practitioners. It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence.”

Indeed such a doctrine of hatred and crime against the humanity has propagated, to pollute the anxious minds. The misled youth may fall an easy prey to that. The psychopaths get a chance to kill and destroy, under the sentiments of ideology preached to them. It takes years to reach to that stage. Parents, teachers, society and peers might have failed in their job, to correct them. Then they might have kept them out of the sight of the radar of intelligence. Then the law enforcing agencies might have neglected their attitude and failed to gauge their state of mind and watch their activities.

The main point of emphasis is that the Great Britain too, must review the policy of providing political asylum to people coming from different countries. Many criminals may make their way in and a person, who is disloyal to his own nation, might turn to be dangerous to the host country. Many of them cerate trouble back home, by inciting the people while themselves enjoying serenity and safety of British environment. Then, there should be more international cooperation in fight against the terrorism. Terrorism is not confined to any region. It has become global in its prevalence. The unfortunate thing is that most of the terrorist come from the Muslim families and portray as if they are doing it for the sake of their religion.

My message to the Muslim immigrants and residents to the UK is that have to have to play a proactive role, to help the country of their residence, in fight against such crimes. They must keep an eye on such elements and report to local authorities, with concrete evidence. Such preachers of hatred must be socially isolated and deprived of chances to pollute the minds of others.  Such fanatic people have brought a bad name to all the Muslims; who are generally peace loving and responsible members of the society. Such bad boys need to be tackled systematically and all support should be provided to the authorities.  All of us have to play our part to make the society safe and peaceful. This is essential make our future generation safe. True values of the religion like benevolence. Charity, generosity, service and love to the humanity has to be projected. The rights of neighbour and help to the poor and destitute has to be highlighted. They must take part in the community service, social work and philanthropic activities. They have to save their children from being radicalised and isolated. If they are the beneficiaries of British social welfare service, they have to reciprocate it in terms of bringing harmony and mutual trust. The enemies of Brutish society are their enemies.

About the author

Mian Bilal

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