Resilience is our greatest weapon


  • The Flipside
  • Thursday, 08 Jun 2017

Floral tributes in Albert Square in Manchester. - AFP

Britian’s display of strength over fear in response to terror attacks in recent months is something Malaysians can learn from, too. 

THREE terror attacks in as many months, dozens of innocent lives lost – this is an unprecedented and challenging time for Britain.

The country was still reeling from the Manchester Arena suicide bombing on May 22 that killed 22 people, many of whom were children, and last Saturday’s London Bridge attack appeared to strike a society while it’s down.

The fact that the last two attacks occurred right in the middle of a crucial election campaign suggests that the perpetrators may have been trying to provide a distraction from the campaign, and they were probably hoping that their actions would leave a mark on the country’s already uncertain political situation.

Unlike the attacks suffered by its European neighbours such as France, Germany, Belgium and Sweden, Britian has been forced to deal with a repeated onslaught on its security in such a short space of time.

Egypt and France declared a state of emergency after similar attacks, and the British could have done the same – being barricaded in their homes and too afraid to go out.

But this was not the case after 52-year-old Khalid Masood rammed his car into pedestrians near the Palace of Westminster and killed four people in March, nor was it the case when 22-year-old Salman Abedi blew himself up at the end of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, and it’s certainly not the case now.

As Britain heads to the polls today, there are several lessons from the manner in which they have responded to these consecutive attacks that we can admire and even emulate.

Instead of reeling from the tragedy, they have reacted to these attacks with a steely resolve – hopeful that the worst is over, yet very much prepared for the next possible attack.

Following the Manchester incident, Prime Minister Theresa May made an immediate decision to increase the country’s level of alert to “critical”, fully aware that another terrorist attack could be imminent.

Sadly, they were right. But while the increased vigilance did not prevent the subsequent London Bridge and Borough Market massacre that left seven dead, it did end up saving dozens of lives.

Because of the heightened measures, security and medical personnel were on the scene within minutes after 27-year-old Khuram Butt and his two accomplices went on their murderous rampage.

All three attackers were shot dead by police at the scene, and the situation was diffused much quicker than was previously possible.

More importantly, how did British society as a whole respond to this latest attempt to scare them? Well, in the most English way possible – with a pint.

By now, you’ve probably seen that viral image of a man fleeing the London Bridge terror attacks, still holding onto his pint of beer.

Most netizens saw the funny side of the photo, while there were, of course, those who felt offended by it.

If you ask me, Twitter user @SarahHallahan1 best described it with “Nobody is ignoring the spilt blood but humour gives us the strength to fight for those who were hurt and killed. It’s just how we do it here.”

The photo sums up the country’s defiance in the face of multiple attempts to knock it down with violence and hate.

And while some will label this attitude as arrogant and ignorant of the realities now facing Britain, which arguably were to an extent triggered as a result of the government’s own foreign policies, you cannot deny that this is essentially how a resilient society reacts.

Resilience in this context is commonly referred to by scholars as a nation’s capacity to recover from “sudden changes” and to return to its original state. The UK has shown that it is certainly capable of doing so.

This is visible in the words of average Londoners like Richard Angell, who told the BBC after the London Bridge attack: “Small-minded, cowardly, evil people should not change our way of life. They won’t make me scared on the streets of London.”

It is heartening to see that the majority of people also refused to be drawn into the hateful rhetoric directed at Muslims following the attacks.

After the Manchester bombing, for instance, some keyboard warriors took to Twitter and Facebook to spread hate against Muslims and Islam for supposedly “propagating violence”.

Fortunately, this was quickly shot down by rational-minded individuals who realised that messages of hate and intolerance are exactly what the terrorists want.

Terrorists feed on these divisive voices to recruit others to their cause. Bear in mind that individuals like Masood and Abedi were “home-grown”, and were likely radicalised because of a pervasive culture online and maybe even around them.

Despite these challenges, Britain’s display of strength and resilience at a time of great uncertainty surrounding its post-Brexit future is commendable and something we too can learn here in Malaysia.

While we have been fortunate not to physically experience terror attacks, the likes of which have affected Europe and other parts of the world, we are facing a growing ideological battle against extremism.

Our resilience lies in drowning out such mind-sets before they envelope larger society, and to be fearless in advocating moderation as the best path forward, even if it means being ridiculed for it.

Britain was perhaps a little too late in stopping the perpetrators of these attacks from becoming radicalised to the point of no return. Their experience should leave us better prepared to tackle extremist ideology before an actual attack occurs.

Akil Yunus is horrified by the almost daily terror attacks around the globe, but firmly believes that society’s resilience is its greatest weapon against extremism. He can be reached at akilyunus@thestar.com.my

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Opinion , Fresh Faces , Young Voices , Akil Yunus

Akil Yunus

Akil Yunus

Akil Yunus believes the world would be a better place without politics, but also a lot duller. He is a moderate at everything but eating, and feels people should make sense, not war.

   

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