Terror – a worldwide crisis requiring a global solution.
I do not like to comment on things I can barely understand but terror attacks are a serious public health crisis. These attacks leave people dead and seriously injured. They leave damaged communities too – so I write from the perspective of living in two countries and observing our similarities.
This year, the UK has faced terror attacks, one after the other. The London attack, barely two weeks following the Manchester bomb – a terrible crisis at a time when the nation is getting ready for a general election. The quick and efficient response of armed forces and medical teams in UK means a whole lot less people have died. The Westgate mall attack and the attack at Garissa University would have resulted in far less deaths had the Kenyan armed forces been as efficient.
But there were also a lot of similarities. The stories of bravery. People’s deep desire to help – for many the only way they could think of was giving blood. In both Kenya and the UK, the turn-out for blood donors has been overwhelming after a terror attack ……
It is always amazing that the terrorists get what they hate – a show of love and unity. We forget our tribes and focus on our humanity.
In Kenya, Islam and Christian clerics gather around quickly – and Islamic leaders are quick to condemn the acts. In a country with a high Muslim population like Kenya – we are well aware that nothing would please these murderers more than to watch Christians turn against Muslims. When an Islamic cleric was killed….’youth’ torched a church…..
Had a mosque been torched in retaliation, a religious fight would have broken out. Islamic and Christian clerics showed solidarity and sanity prevailed.
In the face of terror – we all react in a very similar fashion. The initial shock and the intense coming together – the show of love and support. But then follows suspicion and blame.
In Kenya, many of the attacks have been carried out by Muslims of Somali heritage. After one attack there was a ‘crackdown’ on Somali people in Nairobi – many were rounded up and put in stadiums – in an attempt to ‘flush out extremists’….
I do not know how useful this crackdown was but there was a time of much tension. My friend and former colleague, Dr Amin Abnasir, wrote about how it feels to live under suspicion just for being a Somali in Kenya…..
In the UK, muslims, especially those of Middle East or North African origin are suffering the same fate as Somali muslims in Kenya. They will not be rounded up and put into stadiums but they will continue to feel a higher level of scrutiny ……..
However, in both nations, the very communities from which the terrorists come from are the very ones who are able to provide reliable information. The killer from Manchester for example had been reported to the police many times and he had been kicked out of his local mosque – for a person to be kicked out of a mosque is a really big deal and should have been taken more seriously. There was highly incriminating intelligence on two of the London bombers.
How to best gather information from the communities within which terror suspects live without condemning whole communities is crucial.
The presence of heavily armed forces on the streets is a must after an attack. It may feel like they are acting too late after the fact – but I think it does prevent the possibility of copycat attacks. For Kenya, we are ‘scanned’ when we go into churches, supermarkets, malls, large gatherings. We stand at the entrance of a supermarket like Tuskys or Nakumatt while a fellow with his little black button scans our bags. There is a beep – which is ignored – then they let us go through. I am not sure that it stops anything. Surveillance on the streets is higher and those flashing cameras on the roads in Nairobi can be rather annoying.
In the UK, CCTV cameras are all over the place – I can’t imagine that being upped up. At supermarkets and malls, there are stern looking men at the entrance – pretending not to stare too hard as you walk in. Heavily armed forces on the streets of big cities will be a regular thing that people will have to get used to.
When there is an attack in London or Paris – the world stands in solidarity – people are told to visit the attacked nations and stand with them. When an attack happens in Nairobi – the world issues a travel advisory – do not go to Kenya! The tourism industry in Kenya has been destroyed as a result, driving more families into poverty, providing the young male fodder for the terror groups. It is a real pity that the world isolates some when they are attacked but stands with others.
The political rhetoric in the UK is strange – words like ‘they want to stop our way of life’, ‘this is an attack on democracy’. Very strange indeed – because if you look at the trend in terror attacks, democracy has nothing to do with it. More muslims in highly undemocratic countries have died from terror attacks by extremist islamists than any other group in the world. Less than a week before the London bombing, 150 mainly muslim people, died in Kabul in Afghanistan’s worse terror attack by extremists…
My muslim friends complain bitterly about the way in which terror is regarded as a ‘them’ and ‘us’ war when really, these Islamic extremists appear not to care about their own fellow muslims who do not subscribe to a particular rigid religious outlook. I look forward to a time when Western media will tally the damage done by Islamic extremists in mainly muslim countries with the damage they have done abroad – and broadcast it widely. Whereas they will use the name of their faith in Nairobi and London, I don’t know what they say to the muslims they torture and kill in the tens of thousands – but they just simply don’t care.
Only one who refuses to see can deny that the terrorists have at the moment succeeded in creating an environment that will breed more of the same. This is a time when those who believe themselves to be world rulers need to be humble and sit as equals with every other leader in the world and actually listen. There are many ways to stop this terror – but it’s not going to be a Western solution… it will not be lead by America or Europe – they do not know what to do and have continually made things worse. No one person has the solution to this global crisis – we are all together in this.