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What we can learn from the London terror attack

June 15, 2017 12:21 IST

Are we creating videos that can flick on the jihadi switch, asks Vaihayasi Pande Daniel.

Are we nurturing Khuram Butts, Rachid Redouanes and Youssef Zaghbas in our backyard?

Is India on a path similar to Britain's?

Take a look at the facts surrounding the recent London attack that killed eight young people and wounded 48.

As the investigation into the London attack proceeded, the British authorities called up Islamabad to see if the Jhelum, Pakistan-born Butt had perhaps been radicalised in his country of birth.

But no, Butt was radicalised right in the heart of London.

Butt had no need to travel to ISIS strongholds in Raqqa, Syria, or Mosul, Iraq, to get into the groove of extreme Islam. He could enroll in a do-it-yourself 'course' close to his London home.

Butt, and others like him, had likely been radicalised on British tax-payers' money.

Living intermittently on welfare, and in council housing, many Islamist radicals don't hold down regular jobs, yet marry, have children, pump iron, meet fellow extremists, get doctrinised and march before Britain's parliament, waving jihadi flags.

Once radicalised, they act against the country that nurtures and supports them and their families.

The insightfully crafted Jamie Roberts documentary The Jihadis Next Door -- compulsory viewing, readers -- bravely attempts to understand how an ordinary devout, mosque-going Muslim abandons his regular faith for extremism.

The filmmaker spent two years following and filming a group of Islamist extremists in London.

These men seek, Roberts discovered, a purer form of Islam, rejecting democracy, secularism, freedom and human rights.

They believe their understanding of Allah is above all other faiths and wish to live under Shari’ah law.

The extent of radicalisation is severe and eerie enough for them to believe that their own devout Muslim parents -- some of whom have passed away -- are living in hell for not being their kind of Muslims.

Robb Leech's My Brother the Terrorist follows a similar exploratory path.

There are two crucial factors -- both Roberts and Leech note -- that aid the process of indoctrination of European-raised terrorists.

Indeed, a phenomenon that needs examination, and to be underlined, is that a majority of recent terrorist attacks in Europe were committed by Muslims born or brought up in Europe.

One of these factors -- a budding jihadi mentions to Roberts -- is that many are pushed in this direction by strong feelings of exclusion arising from racial discrimination or bullying.

The second -- and more crucial -- factor is the videos they are shown of alleged atrocities against Muslims in places like Palestine, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere -- including India.

Even Salman Abedi -- the terrorist responsible for the suicide attack outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester -- is a product of rebels opposed to Libya's late dictator Colonel Muammar Gadaffi.

Whatever your politics, if Gadaffi had not been toppled, the Manchester bombing may not have happened.

The videos have a captivating effect in getting troubled, questioning Muslims to cross over to the dark side and join the jihadis.

The videos that potential jihadis are shown -- some footage appears in Roberts and Leech's documentaries -- demonstrate how cheap Muslim lives are.

That realisation turns on the jihadi switch in these conflicted individuals. And terrorists are born.

Are we in India creating videos that can flick on the jihadi switch?

Our national narrative now almost on a daily basis offers gruesome footage that could potentially indoctrinate disaffected individuals.

Show people video of a man trussed up in front of an army jeep and led through five or six hours to villages in Kashmir, and you may flick that switch.

Show people video of a defenceless man being mercilessly beaten to death for leading a cow down the road in Alwar, Rajasthan, by gau rakshaks and you are in danger of flicking that switch.

Show people video of a desperate man, holding up a hand dripping blood, pleading for mercy in the last minutes of his life, as he is being slaughtered in broad daylight for kidnapping children he never did, and that switch could get flicked on.

We are creating now, on a regular basis, video footage that could provoke disaffected individuals towards extremism.

Apart from the government not containing or condoning such violence, there is you and me who do not speak up forcefully and vigorously enough to deplore this potentially explosive national narrative.

When acts of Islamic terrorism occur, the world shakes its collective heads in bewilderment.

They wonder why Muslims do not vocally denounce these acts of terror.

The world puzzles over what Muslims are doing to curb radical members of their community.

Indeed, there is much that Muslim communities everywhere can do to curb and evetually exterminate Islamic terrorism.

But let us come back to our part of the world.

How seriously and sincerely do we denounce what some of us are doing to others?

Our silence has a price.

Let us never forget it.

Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel / Rediff.com