As we approach the ten-year commemoration of that dark July day in London, and as we reflect on recent attacks in Europe, Africa and the United States, I find myself thinking about the biggest challenge we now face.
Ten years ago, as the country reeled from one of the most horrendous terrorist attacks on our soil, we were reminded of the dreadful events of 9/11 in New York. Terrorism, whilst an act that no right-minded person could condone or understand, was something the world was growing accustomed to, and we were used to hearing about various networks of cells that had been broken up, or attacks that had been prevented by the excellent and dangerous work undertaken by our security services.
Only a couple of weeks after 7/7 we saw radicalism rear its ugly head again in the form of the failed attacks on the 21st July, followed by the abhorrent 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot. These were concerted coherent plans on the part of British citizens to blow up, kill, and maim hundreds if not thousands of innocent Britons going about their daily lives.
Since then, we have seen an emerging and evolving threat to our shores – a challenge of a different kind. This threat is more insidious than the terrorist attacks of the early-to-mid 2000s, in that it doesn’t revolve around particular groups or cells or networks. Instead, the threat is coming from home-grown lone-wolf terrorists, acting independently or with a small number of accomplices.
The term is not a new one. Indeed, it has been used since the mid-1990s when it applied to radicalised white supremacists like Tom Metzger, who advocated individuals acting alone to attack the government or other targets in daily anonymous acts. We see this today, in the unconscionable shooting of nine African American worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. A lone-wolf, with his bitter demons of racism and hatred that had consumed him, took it upon himself to commit murder most heinous.
Closer to home the whole country was horrified by the brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by two radicalised fundamentalists and, more recently, we felt pangs of sorrow and despair over the senseless killings of more than 30 Britons on that beach in Tunisia. Yet again, because of the hatred felt by a tiny minority, families have been torn apart and lives destroyed in that one instant.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right, however, when he says we must be vigorous in our approach. This is not, and must not become, a war between East and West, between Christianity and Islam. That is exactly what the depraved monsters who are engaged in jihad with terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq want to happen. We must be firm. We will only prevent more young Britons from joining these poisonous death cults by promoting British values of peace, democracy, tolerance and freedom for all. We can do this. We must do this.