National Security & Defense

Stop Comparing the London Attacks to Freak Accidents and Natural Disasters

Police respond to the attacks in London, June 3, 2017. (Reuters photo: Hannah McKay)
An indecent response to Islamic terror has become familiar.

Imagine if Saturday’s three London Bridge killers had been British Nationalist party thugs, ramming their car through a Pakistani neighborhood. Would a single decent person have heard the news and immediately said, “Well, this number of dead people is statistically insignificant compared to those that die in car accidents. These punks can’t threaten our society!” Would anyone have asked, “Why are we talking about the killer’s politics? There are thousands of gun murders in America every year and those killers don’t have their politics talked about.” Would they have felt like singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” the next morning to conjure up a vision of a day when people of all political creeds can get along?

We all know the answer.

And yet, even before the victims on London Bridge had stopped bleeding, this was the reaction among society’s best, brightest and most morally self-assured members on social media. The pattern is by now familiar. Even as an Islamic terrorist killer’s proclamations about Allah’s will are still ringing in victims’ ears, these individuals are already declaring that the true danger from the attack is an Islamophobic backlash, and that you’re more likely to die by drowning in your own swimming pool than from a terrorist attack.

Do they know how callous that sounds? Do they not realize that sensible human beings react differently to a car accident than to a murder plot? Or that states and car manufacturers are constantly working to decrease the lethality of driving, while terrorists are constantly trying to improve the lethality of their enterprise?

Terrorist acts have now become “the kind of thing that inevitably flares up and causes some damage before the experts put it out,” according to one media wit. Or consider Vox’s Will Wilkinson, who wrote that “If it is truly the case that the risk of death by Islamic terrorism can be reduced to approximately zero through official anti-terror zeal, that suggests the threat is manageable — indeed, that it is being managed.”

In his article, Wilkinson noted Germany’s population of 4.8 million Muslims, and wrote that even if 25 percent of them supported Sharia law, that would translate to only 1.45 percent of the total German population. “What can that tiny sliver of the population possibly do to undermine the institutions of one of Europe’s strongest states, and a national culture deeply committed to liberal ideals?” he asked.

Of course, there are many awful things that a dedicated minority can inflict on a society short of the entire nation-state’s being destroyed and the majority population abandoning its civilizational code. For one, they can change the kind of things police have to worry about. Just a few days before Wilkinson proclaimed German institutions impregnable, those same institutions were scrambling for speakers of Afghan to help them in their investigation of a murder in a Bavarian supermarket, in which an Afghan asylum seeker stabbed another Afghan woman to death in front of her two children because she had converted to Christianity. I’m sure some statistician can explain that this woman was more likely to die from the heat death of the universe, but there it is.

There are many awful things that a dedicated minority can inflict on a society short of the entire nation-state’s being destroyed.

Widespread sympathy for Islamic extremism can change the composition of a country’s population. Look to France, where in 2014 more than one in six Muslims said they supported Islamic State. Only a few of the dozen or so Islamic terror incidents over the last five years have targeted French Jews. But lots of other crimes and bias incidents have, including harassment of synagogues. As a result, French Jews are emigrating in record numbers. Remember, crime in France now includes incidents such as the one in which Sarah Halami, a Jewish woman, was beaten and thrown off her balcony to her death by a man reciting Koranic verses. Like the Bavarian supermarket killer, this murderer was promptly thrown into a looney bin. “Without the Jews, France is no longer France. It’s the oldest community. They have been French citizens since the French revolution,” said Manuel Valls, a former French prime minister.

When British Parliamentarian Jo Cox was murdered by a gibbering right-winger last year, media commentators such as Adam Bienkov specifically blamed the tenor and tone of the Brexit campaign. They called out then–UKIP leader Nigel Farage for inflammatory posters. The murder was emblematic of something sinister that needed to be named and confronted. But when three men start slaying people while shouting about Allah, or a man blows up a nail bomb around pre-teen girls, or other men slit the throat of a priest at Mass, or shoot up a convert, we resort to statistical analogies about freak accidents and lightning strikes and reflexive warnings about the dangers of Islamophobia.

The reason the subject changes so quickly from the people dying in the street to the potential victims of backlash is obvious. Islamist terror is politically inconvenient for advocates of mass migration from the Islamic world. To talk about it honestly might lead people to notice that the Czech Republic, which doesn’t have mass migration from the Islamic world, also doesn’t have Islamist terror attacks. And because of that, Czechs also typically don’t engage in these self-criticism sessions over Islamophobia. 

But there is a deeper reason why so many in the media reach for car accidents and lightning bolts and other disasters that have no moral content. They know that deep down they really don’t share a society with the Islamic extremists. Their fellow citizenship exists only on paper, not as a social reality, and it gives them no authority to speak into that subculture, nor any hope of using their public platforms to reason with its members. They have admitted by this evasion the very fact that they wish no one to acknowledge: that these fellow citizens are alien to us.


After the 2016 Election, A Terrorism Gap

After the London Attack, Britain Needs to Talk About Terrorism

Terrorism & Immigration Facts: We Need a Clear View

— Michael Brendan Dougherty is a senior writer at National Review.

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