Our Muslim communities are not part of the problem and must never be made to feel as such. They are, have been, and will be, part of the solution. That was a lesson we had to learn here in the UK during those difficult days after the 2005 London bombings.
LONDON — I remember well the attacks London suffered on July 7, 2005. I remember the shock, the anger and the outrage. I remember the fear, the concern and the trepidation. And I also remember the courage, the persistence and the perseverance.
I served as deputy convenor of the Her Majesty’s Government’s working group on tackling radicalization and extremism, set up in the wake of that grotesque attack.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Westminster, I am reminded of the lessons from 2005: both how to respond and how not to respond; how to stand united and how not to allow the vile attackers to claim any real victory.
It was only a matter of hours before some bigots decided to use this despicable attack on one of our most enduring symbols, the Palace of Westminster, for their own base political purposes.
When Jo Cox, a living, breathing symbol of British democracy, was murdered by a far-right extremist, I don’t remember seeing anyone calling for a war on white nationalism.
We saw no tweets from the likes of Donald Trump Jr., who decided to use this week’s tragedy to take a cheap shot at the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who happens to be Muslim and whose Muslim identity is in my opinion certainly not inconsequential when questioning why the President’s son decided to take that cheap shot.
We saw no tirades by the likes of former leader of the English Defense League Tommy Robinson, who festers on hatred and bigotry but never goes to war against the far-right extremism that is gaining ground every day across the West.
But of course, the likes of these bigoted populists will take any opportunity to demonize the entire community of Muslims — and Islam as a world faith — while the radical Islamist extremists target and kill far more Muslims than they ever have non-Muslims, whose greatest enemies have always been Muslims who die as they fight against this scourge.
We know from Mark Rowley, Britain’s most senior counterterrorism officer, that since 2013, more than a dozen attacks in the UK have been foiled as a result of work by the security establishment.
And we also know that crucial to that effort has been the involvement of the public at large — a public that includes Muslims and non-Muslims alike — in providing intelligence.
As compatriots and fellow citizens, our Muslim communities are not part of the problem and must never be made to feel as such. They are, have been, and will be, part of the solution.
That was a lesson we had to learn here in the UK during those difficult days after the 2005 London bombings.
We did not pretend, as bigoted populists so often like to claim that we do, that there was no religious inspiration involved in radical Islamist extremism.
Rather, we emphasized — as the security establishment itself across the West recognizes — that there is a warped heterodoxy that serves as the ideological underpinning for this extremism. A heterodoxy in the same way that the “positive Christianity” of the Nazis, the Christianity of the Ku Klux Klan, and so many other ideological deviations were heterodoxies.
But there was another lesson that we had to learn in 2005, which was about a different type of extremism than that of the Islamists — an extremism that would feed off of the butchery of attacks like these in order to drive wedges in our society.
Bigots and racists must be told in no uncertain terms that our society is for all of us. They will not win in trying to divide us. If we allow that, then the terrorists win. Their hate must not be allowed to emerge victorious.
Rather, here in the UK, if we remain united against hatred and reject division in our society, we will emerge triumphant. This is London: we keep calm, and carry on.
(H.A. Hellyer, senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London, is author of “Muslims of Europe: The ‘Other’ Europeans” and “A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt”)