WE CAN ALL TAKE AC­TION TO AVOID MORE AT­TACKS

The Gulf Today - - FOCUS - BY JONATHAN RO­MAIN

Ac­cord­ing to Don­ald Trump, the an­swer to pre­vent­ing at­tacks on sy­n­a­gogues — or any other place of pub­lic gath­er­ing — seems to be hav­ing armed guards inside the build­ing. A bet­ter solution would per­haps be not hav­ing armed killers out­side them.

Of course, we can­not pre­vent a de­ranged in­di­vid­ual try­ing to act mur­der­ously once he or she has lost all sense of rea­son, but we can make it much less likely that they get to that stage.

Firstly, by not al­low­ing cit­i­zens to have vir­tu­ally un­fet­tered ac­cess to weaponry. The abil­ity for in­di­vid­u­als in the United States to eas­ily pro­cure guns means that mass shoot­ings are now reg­u­lar oc­cur­rences, whether in schools, shop­ping malls or places of wor­ship. Here in the UK we may have had oc­ca­sional in­ci­dents – such as the Hunger­ford shoot­ings in 1987 – but there is a clear cor­re­la­tion be­tween gun con­trol in the UK and the paucity of such oc­cur­rences.

Sec­ondly, by re­duc­ing the toxic level of po­lit­i­cal and so­cial dis­course, in which op­po­nents are painted as not only be­ing wrong, but in­trin­si­cally evil peo­ple who de­serve pun­ish­ment. It is not new: when Henry II re­port­edly said “Who will rid me of this tur­bu­lent priest?”, he may have been ask­ing it rhetor­i­cally, but it led four knights to take it lit­er­ally and ride off to Can­ter­bury to as­sas­si­nate Thomas Becket.

But whereas that episode has served as a warn­ing for cen­turies to those in power to guard their tongue, such ret­i­cence has disappeared to­day.

Trump is not the only per­son to re­tal­i­ate against those with whom he dis­agrees with in­cen­di­ary language, but he bears more re­spon­si­bil­ity than most BE­CAUSE of HIS OFICE. THE GREAT hope that the vit­riol he used on the cam­paign trail would dis­ap­pear once he be­came pres­i­dent has proved false.

But it is too easy to cas­ti­gate Trump, and we in the UK need to look in the mir­ror just as much. De­spite the cries of out­rage when Jo Cox was mur­dered, some MPS seem to have to­tally for­got­ten their pi­ous words at the time and en­gage in the poi­sonous terms that they con­demned in oth­ers. The ad­vice to Theresa May to bring her own noose to the 1922 meeting of back­bench MPS last week at­tracted crit­i­cism, but no one has felt brave enough to out the per­son con­cerned.

We know that hate speech can lead to hate ac­tions. It is that sim­ple. Not in ev­ery­one, but in enough peo­ple who may have other is­sues – grudges, de­pres­sion, men­tal ill­ness, a warped de­sire for glory, rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion – to make it highly dan­ger­ous. The per­son who ires THE Gun Is re­spon­si­ble For THE mur­der, but the per­son who un­leashes the hate that trig­gered that re­sponse is also guilty.

Or­di­nary peo­ple have a role to play too. The Pitts­burgh suspect had ex­pressed not only his ha­tred of Jews, but his in­ten­tion to act upon it. If we no­tice peo­ple we know – fam­ily, friends, work col­leagues or those on so­cial me­dia – voic­ing hate and mak­ing alarm­ing state­ments, we have a civic duty to alert the po­lice.

If we saw a man at night plac­ing a lad­der against a house, we would as­sume a bur­glary was about to hap­pen and call 999. This is no dif­fer­ent, and it would be tragic for those who see the next warn­ing signs but do not do any­thing about it, to say af­ter­wards “if only, I had...” fol­low­ing an­other killing spree.

The Pitts­burgh at­tack was dou­bly shock­ing, both in the death toll, and the FACT that It was not At A HIGH proile venue or event, but a lo­cal place of wor­ship. The vic­tims were not fa­mous, but Mr and Mrs Or­di­nary. It was an at­tack on any­one and ev­ery­one, and that makes it even more chill­ing. The good news is that we have po­ten­tial so­lu­tions, and the big ques­tion is whether we will avail our­selves of them.

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