Westminster Reflections

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Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

The Metro newspaper had a story a couple of days ago about a terror response exercise on the river Thames; as events unfolded in Westminster yesterday afternoon it felt surreal as if reality and training were merging. Three members of the public died and dozens are being treated for extensive injuries after a car was driven into a crowd on Westminster Bridge. PC Keith Palmer was stabbed and died after confronting a man who ran towards the entrance and tried to gain access to Parliament; this man was shot dead by police. Parliament and the surrounding area remained under lockdown for several hours and now, on the morning after, the country is left reflecting on what happened.

For me seeing these events happening in the city of my birth is devastating. The beautiful sights of London under lockdown and once more filled with the sound of sirens and the sight of blood because of an act of hatred. We experienced it with IRA bombings in the past as well as the 7th July attack.

Events of horror such as this one affect us all and we react in different ways; until the police actually tell us details of what happened and until we can see into the hearts of our fellow people speculation is futile.

However speculation began immediately and in this age of social media it doesn’t take long for information, both fact and fiction, to spread. Matters were made worse when the usually more reliable Channel 4 News named the suspect only for it to emerge that the man in question is actually serving a jail sentence. Many people began to blame Islam and Muslims, for carrying out and condoning terrorism; so once again and despite their open condemnation, peaceful, ordinary Muslims were blamed for ‘not doing enough’. As if reasonable people could really believe ordinary Muslims are not shocked and saddened; the fact that the great majority of devout Muslims are against terrorism should be enough to show that Islam itself does not allow for terrorism.

A couple of other things struck me as really unsavoury; first was the way former EDL leader Tommy Robinson rushed to the scene and the media interviewed him. Why should importance be given to a man who wasn’t present during the incident and is only known for stirring up hatred against Muslims? Once again the media’s need for shock value prevailed.

Another thing was that despite advice from the Police that people should contact them with information and not circulate photographs and speculation, many were shared. One showing a man in a crowd taking a selfie in front of ambulances produced immediate outrage; however the people circulating the photo didn’t maybe stop and think they were complicit just by sharing. A second photo showed a Muslim woman walking past an injured person on the pavement while speaking on a mobile phone. This led to many comments condemning “the uncaring Muslim rushing by”. But who knows the situation? She could have been contacting relatives to tell them she was safe, she could have been pacing unable to help and if she was merely walking past chatting what makes this action an illustration of an uncaring Muslim rather than the actions of any other uncaring young person these days?

Divisions and hatred may have been shouted out but the images and words that should stay in our minds are rather different. The image of MP Tobias Ellwod was all over the media as he desperately tried to save the life of the fallen police officer. The many medics rushing out from St Thomas hospital disregarding the fact the area may not yet have been secure. Passers-by helping the injured, something which has been shown again and again at times of crisis.

Hatred and pointing fingers will get us nowhere; to defeat attempts to terrorise us we must unite and show tolerance towards one another as fellow human beings. As Brendan Cox pointed out this morning, there was one act of evil but thousands of acts of kindness and bravery. This is something that what we should focus on as more details emerge in the coming days when the need for unity will be great.

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