As an Islamic terrorist, Khalid Masood was pretty pathetic. Not only because of his abject failure, as described in my last post, but also because he doesn’t appear to have done his jihadist homework. His background was criminal rather than religious, and overall seems very atypical of a genuine terrorist’s. He was too old, for a start. There’s no evidence at all that he was part of a ‘plot’; nor even that he was a devout Moslem. Isis have claimed him as one of their own, but they do that, don’t they? Aren’t proper jihadists meant to yell out ‘Allahu Akbar’, or something similar, as they rush towards their victims? I’ve not seen that reported. Masood could be a motiveless desperado, at the end of his tether, simply losing it as a dozen other crazy murderers have done; with the only thing linking him with political violence being the venue of his killing spree. To assume that he was part of the current Islamicist terrorist menace in any genuine way seems dodgy; and to publicise it as such, both in Britain and America, where such perverse and dangerous capital can be made of it by the likes of Farage, Katie Hopkins and the Trumpeters, is criminally irresponsible.
Of course we don’t yet know for sure. Police and MI5 enquiries might unearth more convincing evidence of religious motivation, or of jihadist connexions, in Birmingham, Kent, Sussex, Wales and all the other places he has lived (including three prisons), in his seemingly rootless life. Or from the wife/partner he is rumoured to have had. My scepticism may be ill-founded; even naive. But it’s not a bad approach to have, in such combustible circumstances. In any case we seem to have gone overboard on this, to the advantage only of the far Right, and of the Islamicists themselves. By exaggerating the terror, we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.
I’m hoping the intelligence services may be able to reassure us on this. Historically they have very often been suspected of exaggerating ‘threats to national security’ – communist, Irish, at one time moral (in the 1890s they tried to close down a magazine advocating ‘free love’) – and of dirty tricks on behalf, usually, of the political Right. They need to justify their salaries. But there have been times in the past when they (or rather the British ones, the only ones I really know about) have been more cool, impartial and objective. It’s a long way back, I realize; but they were crucially reassuring in the 1850s, when some very fiery revolutionaries flocked into Britain and to Jersey from the European Continent after the failure of their 1848 risings (Marx was one), and the government of the time, on the basis of some sober intelligence from its secret police branch, was able to persuade both its own people and panicky foreign monarchs, that they were pretty harmless really. I’m trusting today’s police and MI5 to adopt the same approach. Neither they nor the government, after all, have any interest in stoking up either terrorism or Islamophobia.
By the same token, however, if they do find Masood was part of a significant plot, I’ll cast my doubts aside.