Today’s appalling terror attack in Westminster should not have come as a surprise to us. The UK’s terror threat level has been assessed as “severe” since August 2014 meaning that “an attack is highly likely”. It is to the immense credit of our police and security services that they have foiled so many potential attacks in recent years, but we have long been warned that they cannot prevent every attack, especially those undertaken by “lone wolf” assailants.
The attack on Westminster Bridge and even inside the grounds of Parliament today is clear in its symbolism. Westminster is the heart of UK democracy and is therefore a high value target for terrorist groups. Despite the tragic deaths we have seen today (three deaths not including the alleged attacker at the time of writing), this attack serves to underline the continuing strength and resiliency of UK democracy and our institutions while simultaneously laying bare the weakness and moral bankruptcy of those who deliberately target civilians as part of their “cause”.
Terrorists have not succeeded and are highly unlikely to succeed in destroying our democracy. However, they can succeed in generating fear amongst our communities and dividing us. The increasing popularity of right-wing demagogues in parts of Europe is surely a sad reflection of this.
Groups like Islamic State have long been encouraging attacks on civilians in the West. They offer false hope to young Muslims of re-establishing a just Islamic order. Instead of a just Islamic order, what they actually promote is religious bigotry and unbridled hatred of non-Muslims and even others whom they deem not sufficiently Muslim. That is no formula for success in the modern world and hopefully it is only a matter of time before the so-called Islamic State is dismantled.