On the exact anniversary of the 2016 triple bombing in Brussels, an attack in London joined the long list of terrorist assaults against the European continent.
Every terrorist attack has its own story. Wednesday’s attack will be remembered primarily because of its location: the very heart of London, in what was the very heart of the old world. It began as a ramming attack on Westminster Bridge, and then turned into a stabbing spree near the Parliament building. The main witness to this jihadist incarnation of “Murder on Thames” was the city’s iconic Big Ben clock tower.
After the attack, France’s far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, said, “The government isn’t taking the idea of war against the Islamist extremists seriously.” It appears she hopes that the attack in London, news of which promptly crossed the English Channel, will remind the French people of the horrific attacks they have suffered themselves and consequently boost her support at the polls in several weeks.
London was reminded on Wednesday that the Brexit referendum was won mainly on concerns of Islamic State and terrorism entering the country with Syrian refugees. Wednesday’s attack, perpetrated by a radicalized British citizen, illustrates just how deep Islamic jihadism has taken root in Western societies. This is no longer a war against people; it is a war against an ideology.
This is not how Europe envisioned itself — vacillating between radical jihadists and the far right option. Terrorism has become entwined in everyday reality.
On May 22, 2013, when two assailants beheaded a British soldier near a military installation in London’s Woolwich neighborhood, Britain and Europe in general were not overly perturbed. Since the attackers shouted “Allahu akbar,” the British government determined the incident to be a terrorist act, but Britain returned to its normal routine shortly thereafter. Indeed, this should always be the response to an attack: to show the terrorists that they will not break the people’s spirit.
The problem in Europe in general and Britain in particular is that the terrorist attacks, from the onset, were treated as a setback rather than a phenomenon. Now the light bulbs are finally turning on, but it appears to be too late. In European capitals they know more attacks are coming, the only question is when.
The desire not to incriminate the Muslim population in general prevents European authorities from pointing at the problem. Instead of demanding the imams’ support in the war on terror, they immediately issue placating statements explaining that the attackers are simply a few rotten apples, the exception to the rule. It seems though that mosques these days are producing a few too many of these bad seeds who, heaven forbid, don’t reflect in any way on Muslims.
The terrorist’s identity will come as no surprise to anyone. It was initially reported — and then denied — that his name was Abu Izzadeen, formerly known as Trevor Brooks before becoming radicalized. In 2009, he delivered a hate-filled speech and became known as the “hate preacher.” It is only a matter of time, it seems, before words become actions. Someone will always be willing to implement incitement.
Britain has been preoccupied in recent months with quitting the European Union. But while it can flee Brussels, the Euro bloc and even the frogs’ legs in France, there is one thing it cannot outrun, and that is terrorism — a threat to the entire continent.
The war on terror is far from over. Maybe this time, after innocent people were murdered at the foot of the Big Ben tower, people will finally come to their senses. “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,” Winston Churchill famously said in November of 1942.