By Tom Still
MADISON – It should have been another normal London day for our family’s friends, Matthew and Elizabeth Clark. Instead, it was a day touched by terror.
Shortly after seven explosions ripped through four targets in central London, bond trader Matthew rode a borrowed bicycle from the city’s Financial District to South Kensington to make certain his wife and their two daughters, Madeline and Lillie, made it safely home.
All was well with them, but not so for the 49 people who died or the scores who were injured in the July 7th rush-hour attacks. Once again, a major Western city had been attacked by political fanatics determined to kill indiscriminately.
This time, the attack most likely came from within; a group calling itself the “Group of al Qaeda of Jihad Organization in Europe” claimed credit. That’s not altogether surprising, for what makes London a shining example of Western civilization and openness is also what makes it vulnerable.
London is remarkably cosmopolitan, a place where you’re just as likely to meet someone from Germany, Pakistan or China as Gloucester Road, Hampstead or South Kensington. It is home to people from 300 nationalities who speak 200 languages. It is also a city that is more Muslim than Anglican, according to recent religious attendance estimates.
So it’s not shocker that a “sleeper cell” of al Qaeda sympathizers would reside in London, given the tendency of the British people and authorities to extend every democratic courtesy until a visitor or immigrant proves undeserving.
On July 7th, the proof was viciously supplied by bombs that tore apart people in London’s notoriously open mass-transit systems. The blasts were timed to coincide with the opening day of the G8 summit in Gleneagle, Scotland, which made the attacks seem all the more barbaric given the humanitarian thrust of the summit’s agenda.
First New York, then Madrid, now London. We are under attack by people who despise Western society and who kill by taking advantage of their ability to move freely within it.
One response is to close our society by taking precautions that go far beyond democratic tradition and constitutional authority. But that is unquestionably the wrong solution. While we must employ the latest technology and the right policies to protect ourselves, we cannot sacrifice core freedoms along the way. That would be tantamount to victory for the terrorists.
Instead, the citizens of all Western nations must recognize these attacks for what they are – an attack on our way of life by a tiny, violent and demented segment of Muslim society.
“We still warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all the crusader governments that they will receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan,” read a statement from the Group of al Qaeda of Jihad Organization in Europe. “We gave the warning, so we should not be blamed.”
The message is clear: Any Western nation, any “crusader” government, is a target for these jihadist death cults. And the attackers will rationalize the death of innocents.
There is ample room to disagree with the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq, or with how that war has been carried out. But there is little doubt that long before the first allied soldier stepped foot in Iraq, a war had been declared on the West by Muslim extremists. That should have been evident when the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993, when the U.S.S. Cole was torn apart in 2000, and when the World Trade Center was leveled with the loss of 3,000 lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Again, not all Muslims are responsible. The Muslim American Society denounced the London bombings as “brutal… heinous… cowardly … repulsive crimes,” and made it clear that Islam does not champion or condone such acts. But far too many Muslim clerics remain relatively quiet, and far too many Westerners remain blind to the threat from jihadists who hate Europeans and much as they do Americans.
In our interconnected world, we all know a Matt or Elizabeth Clark. The freedoms that bind us together are too precious to be destroyed by a lunatic fringe.