A terrorist attack at Westminster which saw five people tragically killed, including policeman Keith Palmer who was stabbed in the line of duty protecting Westminster Palace yesterday, once again highlights the unpredictable nature of such attacks and the risks that exists for people serving in public life. Our thoughts remain with the victims of this tragedy and their family and we commend the incredible efforts of the emergency services that responded so swiftly to prevent greater loss of life.
Following the police investigation, it has been revealed that the attack was perpetrated by 52-year-old Khalid Masood. The nature of the attack is reminiscent of previous tragedies that have occurred in major European cities in the last few years and reflects an indiscriminate and callous disregard for the sanctity of life.
As we reflect and try to make sense of what has taken place, we are reminded that the perpetrators of these attacks remain determined to instil a perpetual sense of fear and animosity in society that they hope contributes to the breakdown of communal relationships and turns friend against friend. What will ultimately determine their success is how we as communities react to these atrocities. If we allow it to cement divisions and build hatred against those that hold certain religious or cultural beliefs, then we risk paving the way for the breakdown of society and an excuse of civil disorder.
The reaction of people in the aftermath of these atrocities speaks volumes on who they are and what they stand for. As we have already seen, extreme far right opportunists spared no time in using the atrocity to further their political aim and stir anti-Muslim hatred in a bid to play on raw emotion and spark an immediate negative reaction against an entire community. Time and time again we are reminded that the motivations, tactics and desire of extremists, be they far right or Daesh inspired, are one and the same. They thrive on perpetuating a 'clash of civilisations' outlook of the world that sows discord and division.
Despite this attempt by extremists and criminals, the resilience and steeliness that society shows in response to atrocities is what ultimately defines us. The resolve and defiance of Londoners going about their daily life today, the heroic actions of MP Tobias Ellwood who was one of the first responders on the scene to help resuscitate PC Keith Palmer, the incredible response of the emergency services in preventing even greater loss of life and the efforts of the British Muslims to help raise funds for the injured and the families of victims is proof of the notion that there is 'strength in unity'.
The hallmark of great people and a strong nation is defined in the face of adversity. For communities across the UK, the attack on Westminster should inspire more community efforts that help build resilience in people and institutions. Part of the process requires communities to understand the important role they play in facilitating efforts to eradicate hatred from society. There is also an emphasis on government to be conscious of the fine line that exists between increased security measures in the pursuit of safety and the impact this has on civil liberties and community perceptions that can become a barrier to engagement. By working together, communities will continue to defy people that seek to sow division and hatred and will ensure coordinated efforts to eradicate hatred from our society and avoid future atrocities from taking place.
For now, we continue to offer our condolences to the families of those that lost loved ones and remain determined to stand against hatred and prejudiced in all its forms.