For the second time in just over two months, terrorism on Britain’s streets has descended into lethal farce. On Sunday Sudesh Amman, an Islamist who had just been released from prison even though he was considered so dangerous that he was being shadowed by armed police officers, seized a knife from a shop in Streatham and stabbed two people before those officers shot him dead.
Last November Usman Khan, an Islamist released from prison 11 months earlier, murdered two people at a conference that he was attending on London Bridge organised by a prisoners’ rehabilitation project.
This provoked much head-shaking about the risks of letting terrorists out of jail too early and accepting too easily that they’d been de-radicalised. Now, some are saying we can’t go on like this.
Easier said than done. For what’s required is a step-change in attitudes which Britain has been unwilling to make.
For all the evidence suggests that de-radicalisation programmes both inside and outside prison are singularly ineffectual. That’s not just because of the chaos in the under-resourced prison and probation system. It’s because of a conceptual error: the belief that the power of reason can be used against fanatics who believe in killing infidels and “martyring” themselves in the name of God, and wear mocked-up bomb-belts to encourage the police to kill them.
Islam’s history features holy war and conquest, punctuated over the centuries by attempts at enlightenment and reformation that were suppressed. So could it be that these charismatic prisoners, who further radicalise other Muslim inmates, are more faithful to Islam than the hapless imams sent in to persuade them of the error of their ways?
Liberalism’s flaw is that it believes reason is the antidote to all problems, including a religious death-cult. “We can’t go on like this” means our own society taking steps which won’t seem very liberal — be they tougher sentences or new restrictions on hate preachers.
But if a society is so liberal it refuses to defend itself properly, it will vanish.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.