The police are treating it as a ‘terrorist incident’. I treat it as a personal attack.
For Parson’s Green is my tube station, a five minutes’ walk from where I live. The District Line train incinerated by an “improvised explosive device” at 8.20 yesterday, is one I or, even worse, my wife could have been on.
The explosive device, wrapped in a Lidl shopping bag and hidden in a bucket, wasn’t improvised very well. It exploded only partially and, while it sent a wall of fire through the train, the blast wasn’t of murderous power.
So far no fatalities have been reported, although some people were badly injured. One woman had all the skin on her legs burnt off, 28 others suffered similar injuries.
The police are looking for the suspect, who is believed to have planted several other similar devices. The suspect’s identity hasn’t been divulged yet, and we don’t know who he is. But we can take a wild guess at what he is.
It starts with an ‘M’ and describes his religion. I’ll give you a clue: he’s not a Methodist, Mormon, Mennonite, Molokan or Mithraist.
The device is similar to those previously used in London, some to greater effect, especially those triggered by suicide bombers screaming “Allahu Akbar!!!” (there, I’ve given you another clue).
The most successful of such attacks were the four staged on 7 July, 2005, that murdered 52 people. The leader of the suicide bombers was named Sidique Khan, not to be confused with the London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Mayor Sadiq Khan, not to be confused with the murderer Sidique Khan, promised that London “will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism”. Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean the ‘M’ persons will stop trying.
Prime Minister Tessa also had a comment: “My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green…” She got the cliché wrong. It’s supposed to be “my thoughts and prayers…”, MTAP for short.
I don’t know if her leaving prayers out is significant, perhaps testifying to the PM’s incipient atheism. Or else she shares Richard Dawkins’s view that mass murders committed in the name of the ‘M’ faith tar all religions with the same brush.
I also wonder if the choice of a Lidl plastic bag, in preference to one from, say, Sainsbury’s, is a political statement, in this case pro-EU. Why else would an ‘M’ person use a bag from a German-owned supermarket chain?
Don’t be misled by the note of levity you may detect in my prose. This is but a defence mechanism designed to mitigate the shock, and I don’t shock easily.
Terrorist attacks striking elsewhere have a certain impersonal, abstract quality. Hence one’s outrage isn’t concrete but general.
Around the corner from where one lives is different. Call me an egoist, but it feels as if my home has been defiled. If my home is my castle, then its walls have been breached, and the enemy is rushing through the hole.
Bastards! is the first exclamation that comes out; what are we going to do about it, the first question. The exclamation is emotional; the question, rational.
I’m sick and tired of hearing comments such as those above every time ‘M’ persons commit yet another atrocity. The comments are solicitous and sympathetic, such as “MTAP go to… [fill the blank]”, or else defiant, such as that made by Mayor Sadiq Khan, not to be confused with the murderer Sidique Khan, along the lines of we “will never be defeated by terrorism.”
Yes, but what are we doing to defeat terrorism? Reassuring those who crave our blood that we don’t for a second believe all persons espousing the ‘M’ religion are terrorists? What, not every one of the 1.5 billion of them? Crikey. Who could have thought.
But it doesn’t take that many. A few thousand will suffice to turn every great European city into hell, every nice European neighbourhood into a combat zone ruled by fear. Few are nicer than Parsons Green, at the western end of Central London, 3.5 miles from Piccadilly.
You’d never guess it’s that close. It feels as parochial as a neighbourhood can possibly feel so close to the city’s geometrical centre.
Parsons Green is expensive, which keeps riffraff at bay. It’s also monochrome and no ‘M’ religions are practised in the vicinity. All the churches at and around Parsons Green are either Anglican or Catholic, and if a language other than English is ever heard in the streets, it’s usually French. Merde alors is possible; allahu akbar, unlikely.
I realise that describing my home patch in such terms is unfashionable to the point of being almost illegal. I’m risking a charge of racism, xenophobia and bigotry only to impress on you how nice my neighbourhood is – and how violated I feel.
So what are you going to do about this, Mrs May? And you, Mayor Sadiq Khan, not to be confused with the murderer Sidique Khan? Other than offering your sympathies and condolences?
It’s not as if nothing could be done. These people talk about ‘M’ terrorism as if it were force majeure, like one of those Caribbean hurricanes. It isn’t. Terrorism is an act not of God but of people. And people can be either prevented by police work fortified by government decree or, that failing, deterred by indiscriminate punishment.
But first we must acknowledge we’re at war – and not just with those few thousand terrorists, fundamentalists, extremists, call them what you like. They are but the vanguard, those ordered to punch a hole in that wall.
Supporting them physically are tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands manning the infrastructure of terrorism. And then there are millions, possibly hundreds of them, supporting terrorism morally and waiting for the vanguard to succeed so that they could all rush through the breach.
Hence we must wage war against all of them, recognising that, like in any war, there may occur unfortunate collateral damage. And once war has been declared, specific actions will suggest themselves.
They may include mass deportations and internments, stopping all immigration from ‘M’ countries, shutting down every mosque in which one word of sympathy for terrorism has ever been uttered, exacting awful punishment on countries sponsoring, arming and training terrorists.
I’m not an expert in such measures, but I’d like to believe we have enough people who are. They’re the dogs of war, and we must all cry havoc and let them slip. Meanwhile, I hope Parsons Green will recover its irenic charm. But I fear it might not.