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What happens now?

  • Published at 07:40 pm March 23rd, 2017
What happens now?

Exactly a year after the terrorist attack at Brussels airport, terror has now struck right in front of the British parliament in London, leaving four people dead and several injured, some critically.

Till now, all the pundits have more or less agreed -- it was always a matter of when. The last few years have seen an increasing number of such attacks in European countries.

While no group has been identified as responsible yet, the fact that IS has, in recent years, called for their sympathisers in the West to carry out attacks in their own countries, and even identified using vehicles as a weapon of choice, has led to speculation in that direction.

Whether the attacker was an IS sympathiser or not, it was clear that the main intention was to make a statement by striking the heart of British democracy -- there doesn’t seem to be any other plausible reason for attacking such a heavily guarded area.

While there was still a tragic loss of lives, the scale of the attack was smaller than seen in the other European attacks. The fact that the attacker did not seem to have any weapon other than a knife is proof that the heavily regulated arms market in the UK prevented a situation that could have been much worse.

According to Guardian columnist Jason Burke, the crude nature of the attack also suggests a limited IS network in Britain, at least in comparison to France and Belgium.

But what comes now? UK Prime Minister May has informed media that MI5 had previously investigated the attacker as a “peripheral figure” and, in the coming days, questions will arise as to how the authorities still allowed this attack to take place.

While we continue to allow Islamist ideologies to fester in our communities, both at home and abroad, it might not be long before we see one of our own commit such atrocities abroad

More uniforms have already been placed on the streets of London, despite stretched resources, and debates on funding of security forces is likely to take place.

The brave and speedy response of medics to the crisis can also bring back the spotlight on NHS contributions to the UK and the current government’s plans to slash its resources.

The Westminster attack is also highly likely to add fuel to the fire of growing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments in the UK. While British authorities have been quick to condemn the attacks and speak against divisive politics, the response from the right-wing media is bound to become more aggressive.

Across the ocean, Donald Trump Jr has already followed in his father’s footsteps and put his foot in his mouth by attacking London mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter. Across the pond, France’s Marine Le Pen has already used the attack to highlight the importance of “controlling national borders.”

And what does it all mean for us? With such a huge number of Bangladeshi expatriates living in the UK, it is safe to say that many of us are worried about our communities’ prospects there. Many of us have already jumped the gun and started saying “not in our name” -- but can we pause and reflect on that for a second?

While we continue to allow Islamist ideologies to fester in our communities, both at home and abroad, it might not be long before we see one of our own commit such atrocities abroad

It is common knowledge that both Bangladeshi and Pakistani Jamaat-Islam has, for many years, had a stronghold in East London, specifically Tower Hamlets.

The fact that war criminal Chowdhury Mueen Uddin is not only a British citizen, but a trustee of Muslim Aid and director of Muslim spiritual care provision at the NHS, shows the extent of their infiltration into the UK.

The British state has only made the situation worse through a warped attempt at promoting multi-culturalism by engaging with so-called Muslim leaders in these areas, many of whom are aligned with Jamaat, further cementing their positions of power within their communities.

Till now, British authorities continue to pander to East London Mosque (where Sayedee was once a regular visitor) and the London Muslim Centre, despite their obvious ideological alignments to Jamaat.

Many of the people attracted to the extreme ideologies festering in East London are British-born/educated Bangladeshi working-class folk, still very much stuck at the bottom of the pyramid, but who have benefitted from the social programs undertaken by such faith-based organisations.

Rather than engaging with these communities themselves, the UK authorities seem happy to leave them be, as long as the votes come in for the right people -- and London’s Muslim mayor had no difficulty in wringing the votes out from these areas.

None of this might seem relevant right now, since the identity of the attacker is yet to be disclosed.

What is relevant to us is the fact that we so often hide our heads under the sand and claim full deniability, but while we continue to allow Islamist ideologies to fester in our communities, both at home and abroad, without tackling any of the root causes that drive young people towards such forms of extremism, it might not be long before we see one of our own commit such atrocities abroad.

It is up to us to fight for secularism and progress, and it is up to these foreign governments to properly engage with communities that are being left behind, rather than on-the-surface interactions in order to steal the “Muslim” vote when needed.

Shuprova Tasneem is Deputy Magazine Editor, Dhaka Tribune.

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