"Terrorists have a clear aim and that is to create discord, distrust and to create fear. The police stand with all communities in the UK and will take action against anyone who seeks to undermine society, especially where their crimes are motivated by hate"
These were the words of Mark Rowley, the national lead for Counter Terrorism Policing and the Acting Deputy Commissioner speaking at a press conference about eight hours after the tragic events that occurred in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon. Measured and calm, he went on to add:
"We must recognise now that our Muslim communities will feel anxious at this time given the past behaviour of the extreme right wing and we will continue to work with all community leaders in the coming days"
Listening to it live, I felt proud of the fact that Rowley seemed to 'get it': that not only will there be some who will go out of their way to convince us that millions of ordinary Britons who also happen to be Muslim should be held accountable for the actions of one extreme-minded idiot but so too will an equally idiotic handful of extreme-minded individuals, groups and organisations seek to exploit the hurt and pain of Wednesday for their own, ideological gain.
While Rowley was dignified and proportionate, his words sadly fell on the deaf ears of some.
Take for instance the vile opportunism shown by the former leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson who arrived at the scene of the tragedy within hours to aggressively rant about Islamic extremism for any camera that would give him the time. For someone who claims to be a bastion of British values, he hid them well on Wednesday afternoon.
Around the same time, the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was appearing on US television, twice arguing that the Westminster attack justified Donald Trump's 'Muslim ban'. To give Farage the benefit of the doubt, it wasn't known at the time that the perpetrator was British-born (even if it had, Farage's line of argument still wouldn't have made sense). While so, Farage and his ilk are not ones to let a relevant or pertinent fact get in the way of an opportunity to encourage hate. As the closely linked Leave.EU campaign tweeted:
"British-born means nothing if he lived in a segregated community and hated the British way of life...Not British at all"
And of course, the triptych would not be complete without the Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins sharing her timely insight. Again on US television, she said:
"We're a country that spends so much time tiptoeing around the cultures that refuse to join us and not enough time defending the culture they have chosen to join, but because I say those things I am widely hated for those views"
What is most irrational about this is that Hopkins seems to be decrying the hate directed at her while simultaneously promoting hate against others. Isn't that a tad hypocritical?
Nonetheless, Hopkins went on to add that in Britain:
"People are cowed, people are afraid and people are not united"
As Rowley put it, beware those who seek to "create discord, distrust and to create fear".
While Hopkins, Farage and Robinson are desperate for us not to be united, the reality is quite the opposite. All right-minded people are united in their condemnation for the hideous atrocities that took place on Wednesday afternoon. Similarly too, all right-minded people are united in stating that we won't allow extremists of any persuasion to destroy who we are and what we stand for.
All right-minded people also know that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are as appalled by the actions of Khalid Masood as indeed most ordinary Brits find the views of Katie Hopkins toxic and distasteful. Don't let the incendiary rhetoric of the extremists in sheep's clothing fool you into thinking anything different;. Extremists of all persuasions want to divide us.
As a proud Londoner, I know that my grandparent's generation were stronger together. They and the city would never have survived the Blitz had they not been united. I also know that as a child living in central London, had my parent's generation not stayed united in the face of IRA bombs we would have been much lesser a city. For those generations in London today, standing united in the face of all extremism - be that in the form of a knife and a car or the pen and the word - is the most powerful defence all of us can have. United is what we've always been.Suggest a correction