World

What We Can Learn from the London Bridge Terror Attack

A police officer near London Bridge in London, England, November 29, 2019. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)
We must put public safety before fashionable ideologies.

Some ironies are almost too cruel to observe.

Steve Irwin, the man who fearlessly wrestled crocodiles, was killed by a stingray. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, who believed in universal human kindness, were murdered by ISIS on a cycling tour in Tajikistan. And last week, two Cambridge University graduates, Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were murdered by a terrorist while attending a conference about rehabilitating criminals.

In this instance, there’s an important lesson to be learned.

In 2012, Usman Khan, along with eight others, was convicted of terrorism offenses for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange. During his trial, it was established that Khan had close ties to Anjem Choudary, an influential British Islamist imprisoned for inciting support for ISIS. Though Khan was given a 16-year prison sentence, he was let out only seven years in, after his lawyer had enrolled him in a “deradicalization” program. According to a letter obtained by ITV News, Khan had hoped to “prove to the authorities” that he was no longer “immature.”

Immature? That word seems appropriate when describing young men who drink to excess or drive too fast. But it does not fit when describing a young man who planned to bomb innocent people in a capital city.

Khan’s movements after his release were restricted. Nevertheless, he was granted a special license to travel into central London, along with other convicted criminals, to attend a special conference. The conference was called “Learning Together” and, according to the BBC, aimed to bring together “offenders and those in higher education ‘to study alongside each other’ in equal partnership.” The University of Cambridge has said that the program has been successful in the past, having “broken down prejudices and created new possibilities for all those who took part.”

Again, I spot a potential error: “For all those who took part.” What about Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones? They “took part” in the program and now have had all “new possibilities” permanently removed. And that is because Khan — again: a convicted terrorist — murdered them in broad daylight.

The Telegraph reports that “when Usman Khan emerged into the hallway armed and ready to begin his rampage of terror it was his mentor Jack Merritt who was the first to rush to stop him.” That is a moving and admirable display of good faith and courage, certainly. But it is tragic and sad — not to mention fatally naïve on the part of the authorities and organizers — that he was put in that position in the first place.

Khan, wrapped in a fake suicide vest and holding knives, then began his rampage through the hallway and out onto London Bridge, killing Merritt and Jones and wounding several others en route. He was initially warded off by Lukasz Koczocik, an employee at the venue, who ran toward him with a ceremonial lance. Koczocik is rightly being honored with a bravery medal by the Polish government. Another nearby man grabbed a fire extinguisher. And yet another grabbed a narwhal tusk from the wall. No doubt their bravery saved others. Again, that is commendable — and it is deeply sad that it was necessary.

The police then arrived, dragged the members of the public away from danger, and shot Khan dead.

But how could this have happened? Why were those in charge so blind to the threat that Khan posed? Why did they take his professed remorse at face value?

The incident may well point to a much wider problem. Indeed, it has been reported and confirmed by the British government that 74 people jailed for terror offenses have been released early. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has confirmed that they will have their license conditions reviewed. “This is the right approach,” Will Heaven, director of policy at Policy Exchange, writes. “For a start, anyone who was convicted of London-related terrorism should not be allowed into the capital until they have served their full sentence.”

That would certainly be a good start. Beyond that, though, we might try to do something about a culture that blinds young people to obvious dangers. In this instance, a criminal’s commitment to terrorism was tragically underestimated due to our prevailing progressive fashions — i.e., cozying up to jihadis — which are increasingly disconnected from reality. The cost was two promising young lives.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

Most Popular

White House

The Democrats’ Burisma Bait and Switch

Imagine you get indicted in a swindle. The prosecutors represent that they can prove you and your alleged co-conspirators planned to fleece a major financial institution. You counter that you weren’t fleecing anyone. Sure, you were asking for millions in loans, but the collateral you were prepared to post was ... Read More
White House

The Democrats’ Burisma Bait and Switch

Imagine you get indicted in a swindle. The prosecutors represent that they can prove you and your alleged co-conspirators planned to fleece a major financial institution. You counter that you weren’t fleecing anyone. Sure, you were asking for millions in loans, but the collateral you were prepared to post was ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More

A Nation of Barbers

It seems almost inevitable that long hair is unwelcome at Barbers Hill High School. There’s a touch of aptronymic poetry in Texas public-school dress-code disputes. When I was in school in the 1980s, at the height of the Satanism panic, the local school-district superintendent circulated a list of ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The March for Life Is a March for Truth

Pro-lifers are marching today, as they do every year, to commemorate a great evil that was done in January 1973 and to express solidarity with its innocent victims. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade eliminated legal protections for unborn children in all 50 states, and did so without any ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The March for Life Is a March for Truth

Pro-lifers are marching today, as they do every year, to commemorate a great evil that was done in January 1973 and to express solidarity with its innocent victims. The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade eliminated legal protections for unborn children in all 50 states, and did so without any ... Read More
Politics & Policy

15 Flaws in Adam Schiff’s Case

Adam Schiff did most of the heavy lifting for the House managers, and if he performed ably, he also relied on arguments and tropes that don’t withstand scrutiny. The Democratic case for impeachment and removal is now heavily encrusted with clichés, widely accepted by the media, meant to give their ... Read More
Politics & Policy

15 Flaws in Adam Schiff’s Case

Adam Schiff did most of the heavy lifting for the House managers, and if he performed ably, he also relied on arguments and tropes that don’t withstand scrutiny. The Democratic case for impeachment and removal is now heavily encrusted with clichés, widely accepted by the media, meant to give their ... Read More