There is an ancient Cherokee Parable told by a grandfather to his grandson about a fight inside of him. between two wolves, one good and one evil. The child’s asks his grandfather which one wins, and his grandfather asks the question simple “The one you feed”.
I heard this parable in a film I watching today with my eldest and it got me thinking about the awful events we’ve witnessed in Manchester, London, Paris, Brussels, Iraq, Afghanistan and Florida (to name but a few).
Let’s face it the War on Terrorism has failed, we have killed many terrorists (along with many innocent bystanders) but are we really any safer?
As we sit back and take in the events of this weekend the inevitable questions are asked about how and why.
Many will call for the internment of anyone with links to those terrorist organisations or who has ever expressed any agreement with them – some will call for us to go even farther than that.
Some will say it’s time to change how we deal with them, diplomacy not bombs, missing the point that ‘they’ don’t want to compromise.
Many will recognise that what they was not reflective of Islam and that they were not muslims. Others will say that this is a lie and demand we inter all Muslims.
Most will talk about carrying on regardless, about not letting them win and that we should not let them change us, but how can we not? Even the strongest amongst us have become more wary about the people around them and such a response is not much comfort to the victims friends and family.
We will have to endure the media analysing this from every angle, by Wednesday we’ll know more about the suspect than the security services could ever have found out. We’ll all say we don’t want to know their names or what happened to make them this way, but we’ll have no choice to see what we don’t want to see as the media will flood our senses from every angle.
The fact remains though that we cannot keep repeating the same mistakes and expect a different result.
Innocents are murdered here and we respond by bombing some far off land, killing jihadis and innocent bystanders alike. It’s not solving the problem, it’s not making us safer but it is giving those warped preachers of hate more fuel for the fires they create.
Doing nothing is not an option though, but as diplomacy is not an option, as ‘they’ don’t want to compromise and we can’t give them what they want, we need to find another way.
We are at, and probably have been for a while, a cross roads where we can either keep on doing what we’re doing in the vague hope that by stupidly following a pattern will eventually present the result we want, or we can change paths and find a new way.
Changing path’s is never easy because it implies that we’ve failed, but that’s not a bad thing, ask any company boss and they will tell you it’s not about the fail, but about what you do from it that matters.
Changing our response to terrorist is a huge challenge, but do we really have another choice?
Our response needs to be methodical and logical and in my personal view the first place to start is to stop bombing the Middle East and Africa every time there is an attack. This sort of response is not helpful and isn’t solving the problem. Yes to abandon this policy is giving ISIS a propaganda dream, but it’s a small loss of face to remove a recruiting banner for radical preachers and ISIS alike.
Next I would propose that we should view jihadis as having an illness that needs treatment rather than a crime that needs punishing, so that we can take preemptive measures to detain and treat rather than having to prosecute.
This would not remove the need for controversial secret courts but would allow the use an existing framework (Mental Health tribunals) as a basis to create these new secret courts.
The courts only need to consider whether a person is a potential threat and if they exhibit signs or behaviour associated to radicalisation. Those that are found to be in need of treatment would not be locked up, but would be taken to centres near to family and friends (allowing full visitation rights) that would provide the ‘patients’ with a assistance in the form of access to those who understand both the psychology and religious reasons for such behaviour.
This is controversial step I realise, it means removing the threat of prosecution in the first instance and detaining people without trial – something for both sides to disagree with. It would, however, provide a platform to try and de-programme those who have been radicalised with the aim of returning them back to society.
I would say that the next big hurdle would be asking communities to look out for changes in those they love and care about, and telling the authorities when necessary so treatment can be provided.
It’s a monumental change for some as it cuts right to the core of their culture and their personal identity, but if we are to succeed we need to break the protection that allows people to turn a blind eye to radicalisation in their communities for fear of what the repercussions are. If we can show that potential jihadis are not being imprisoned, but are being treated sensitively, then may this will help overcome this cultural hurdle.
These two methods may help us tackle radicalisation for the future and hopefully ‘right the ship’ but it cannot help make people feel safe if we do nothing with the problems we have right now.
To that end I believe we need to ensure all preachers of hate on all sides (whether they be Imams or leaders of the EDL for example) can be removed, prosecuted and imprisoned for tens of years not just a few months at a time. Where possible deportation should be considered but only after the end of their sentence. Whilst imprisoned they should be kept away from those they could influence for the duration of their stay or participate in so called ‘deprogramming’ that will seek to de-radicalise their beliefs (and yes I do hold that EDL have radical beliefs).
This may mean a curtailment of the Freedom of Speech for many (some would say all), but should we not see this is temporary curtailment as being expedient to solving this problem?
We also need to ensure that armed response units have the power to deal with would be terrorists, have the right to shoot first (but on a strict rules of engagement basis, so a commanding officer sets the parameters of any operation) and have the threat of prosecution removed as a general basis (with only those who have genuinely done something wrong being prosecuted), their identities hidden and protected (and that of their families) for the duration of their lives.
Where someone survives the commission of such atrocities they should be treated both as a criminal and as being broken, so whilst they are prosecuted and isolated in jail, they are also given the necessary ‘deprogramming’ as a matter of course.
I realise that the above may be controversial, but we need to find a different way to deal with this problem. It may come across a bit totalitarian in parts, but is what we are doing really working for us?
*update – I forgot the feeding the good wolf section!*
On top of these methods to curtail the problem we must not forget that we can do far more by encouraging integration, making it easier, ensuring that their are jobs.
This does not mean banning face coverings or stopping Sharia Law, on the contrary, we need to stop the obsession with banning the burka and realise that for many Muslims Sharia Law is as important as secular law.
We should stop the ghettoisation of communities, multiculturalism was meant to expose us all to new cultures, not to coral people into small enclaves where they stick together.
This starts with my generation, a generation that has grown up far more tolerant than the last, and following on to the next generation that is almost fully integrated in some places. We need to keep up cultural and religious education, but it is important that children are taught to question religious dogma as well as secular dogma.Edit
It’s a long road, but we need to start somewhere, otherwise the future is going to be a very bleak place indeed.