Another knife-attack was thwarted yesterday in Westminster. Overnight there were anti-terror raids in Kent and London. These were unconnected, but police say that they have foiled an ‘active terror plot.’ All this will blend into the background soon, as much as last month’s attack in Westminster already has. Not because we don’t remember anything, but because we never learn anything.
After last month’s attack in Westminster there seemed to be an even more concerted effort than usual to say that the perpetrator – a Muslim convert called Khalid Masood – probably suffered from some mental illness, was a mere madman, criminal or drug addict. Various Muslims who knew Masood promised in the media that he hadn’t really been religious at all.
This swiftly became the story. Man drives car into pedestrians on Westminster bridge and stabs a policeman to death. Nothing to see here. Certainly nothing to do with Islam. Probably to do with everything else in the world. But nothing to do with Islam.
The Church of England helped to spread around this fudge. At an interfaith service held in Westminster Abbey shortly after the attack (and before PC Keith Palmer was even buried) the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend John Hall declared that the nation was ‘bewildered’ by the attack (as it may well be with the amount of disinformation and misleading speculation going around). The Dean memorably went on to ponder:
‘What could possibly motivate a man to hire a car and take it from Birmingham to Brighton to London, and then drive it fast at people he had never met, couldn’t possibly know, against whom he had no personal grudge, no reason to hate them and then run at the gates of the Palace of Westminster to cause another death? It seems likely that we shall never know.’
Except that we do. As I predicted we would if we were only patient. For as the excellent Kim Sengupta reports this morning, the final WhatsApp messages sent just minutes before Masood began his rampage have become available. These messages, sent to a friend, reveal that the 52-year old convert:
‘Declared that he was waging jihad in revenge against Western military action in Muslim countries in the Middle East’
Totally unforeseeable, of course. I wonder if the Dean of Westminster and the wider society will now drop the ‘we may never know’ stuff? I would guess not. Not because people like the Dean of Westminster are stupid. Far from it. But because it would mean having to learn the only lesson that they refuse to learn.