The murder of MP David Amess in a knife attack on Friday has sent new terrorism shockwaves around the globe. The attack by an Islamic extremist of 25 years now identified as Ali Harbi Ali a Somalian migrant whose father Harbi Ali Kullane is a diplomat for the Somali Government and once worked as a Director for Communications for the Somalian President.
Mr Kullane also worked on a number of anti-terrorism projects in Mogadishu often putting his life at risk to counter the threat of Al Shabab (click here), But these efforts missed his son, leaving Mr Kullane traumatised by news of his son’s actions (click here).
But if anything the real issue is the ineffective prevent strategy that seems toothless and allows reported concerns to fly under the radar till post-incident.
It beggars belief that while I lived in Ilford I regularly came within 2ft of a man believed to have trained the three London Bridge killers. The man would show videos of his Jihadi training quite brazenly as if he had no fear of the law, the now famous school was only 800 yards from my former home. Reports to police simply fell on deaf ears (click here). The Times actually corroborated the account with several other local people but this was all too late (click here).
Getting to the crux of the extremist problem seems like an impossible task. As a Pakistani Christian girl who attended a Jewish School, I was exposed to the growing level of radicalisation in the younger generation. In most cases it is very mild but for definite after reaching 11 years of age children from Islamic backgrounds can be taught a lot of mythology about other faiths in Madrassah’s and this creates division.
Pose questions on the marriages of Muhammed, the caliphate, blasphemy, sharia Law and Palestine to many Muslim teenagers in secondary school and you will discover how staunch an opinion they have already developed. I won’t express the severity of the arguments here, suffice to say, senior teachers from my former school asked British Asian Christian Association for help. I am aware that we put them in touch with a moderate Imam to provide a calming influence. Though it is true to say the majority of Muslim teenagers oppose terrorism, some began to justify it the longer the US and Britain remained in the Middle-east.
The police and government seem at a loss when considering how to tackle extremism. A good starting point would be regular clandestine jaunts to Hyde P ark’s Speakers Corner. It’s a festering recruitment ground for jihadists at which the atmosphere is so febrile, that Christians have been calling for protection for decades. A recent attack on Hatun Tash an Ex-Muslim now preacher who shares her faith weekly there, resulted in a call for regular policing to protect Christians and free speech, but this met with a derisory silence (click here). We hope to share an interview with her soon.
This killer like many before him, seems to have been influenced by the teachings of extremist preacher Anjem Choudhary who shares my surname to my chagrin. His home was even closer to my former home that the infamous Ilford Lane gym where the London Bridge Trio were taught terrorism. I still shiver when I think of this.
We moved away from our family and friends in Ilford, in part, to escape from the extremism around us, especially because of the work we do. Yet now my youngest sister attends a grammar school in Southend, metres away from this awful attack. It seems we did not escape it.
This is an area where there are few Muslims and it is not known why this particular MP was chosen. Mr Amess sits on an All Parliamentary Party Group for Qatar but the connection is a stretch, it could be because he is a known staunch Catholic or because he holds his constituency surgeries in a church – after all PM Boris Johnson did say this was an attack on the sanctity of the church (click here). Either way the terror the young man sought to bring by killing an MP has manifested. His goal achieved, Mr Ali will now will spend a lengthy part of his life in prison no doubt. It is imperative therefore that the Government looks into the festering extremism within the prison institution (click here), as I fear that he may receive unwarranted hero-status exacerbating an already dire mindset.
By no means, is every Muslim an extremist. Extremists are a minority but so are the voices from moderate Muslims (it that is the right term) speaking out against these atrocities. Our good friend Imam Dr Taj Hargey regularly condemns these attacks and calls for Peace and Islamic reform (click here). Strong voices like his are required if we are ever to defeat those that seek division.
In the meanwhile, Islamic radicalisation and equally extreme racism – two diametrically opposed but also intrinsically linked social malaises continue to thwart global cohesion.
Willow Chowdhry (11 yrs), a student at Southend Grammar School for Girls, visited Belfairs Methodist Church where Mr Amess was killed, she said:
“When I visit churches I normally find them to be very peaceful places.
“That ambience was missing at Belfairs Methodist Church, I could sense turmoil
“To me it seemed as if Jesus would be crying at an attack like this against His people.”
I have to agree with my sister, that an attack like this when conducted in a church on a openly Christian MP, seems more than just an ‘unlucky’ coincidence as suggested by the MET police (click here). It does seem like an attack on a church, but then my Pakistani Christian background may be creating that fear within me.
Willow Chowdhry, added:
“I have friends of all faiths including: Hindus, Christians and Muslims.
“My school is really diverse and I know people with so many different backgrounds.
“We don’t have the problems of hatred that adults seem to have.
“This murder is so sad and it felt good to lay flowers for MP Amess.”
Though It won’t bring his life back, BACA hope that Willow’s gesture illustrates to local people that people of all diversities are shocked at the senseless murder.
After the death of Mr Amess the Boris Johnson announced that the Queen had agreed to grant city status to Southend (click here), in tribute to MP David Amess. I can’t help but think somewhere up in heaven Mr Amess is looking down thinking finally my work is complete.
Hannah Chowdhry is studying A Level Religious Studies, Media Studies and English and one day wants to enter into the field of media or law.
British Asian Christian Association, continues to work on projects involved in community cohesion and interfaith harmony. In addition to our advocacy and humanitarian work for South-Asian Christians. You can donate towards our work (here).