Let’s get something clear right off the bat. This wasn’t the piece I was expecting or even planning to write.
I wanted to do a piece about how I didn’t want to hear any more about Khalid Masood/Adam Ajao. That I didn’t care that he was just “one of the lads” and played five a side football. That I wanted nothing more but to expunge him, permanently from the national consciousness and focus instead on the things that really matter. The people he killed, the people he hurt and the people who helped them. He doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t matter. They do.
But then I realise how wrong that view was. We need to know what he was like growing up, because it helps us understand one very important thing. Nobody is born wanting to do something like this. He liked football, like thousands of other people. He drank down the pub, like thousands of other people. For most of his life he was just like the rest of us. And then something changed.
This is something we need to hold on to if we are to follow the Prime Minister’s call to remain undivided as a nation. There are already people both in this country and abroad, who want to turn us against one another. Who want us to fear those neighbours of ours who go to a Mosque instead of a Church. Who wish to continue stoking up xenophobia and Islamophobia for their own political and monetary ends. The more we let them do that, the more divided we become.
The aim of these people – be they idiots on Twitter or muppets on the far right – is to make us see terrorists not as people, but as some strange monolithic Other, who all think and feel the same way and have all been bought up to hate those they are fighting against. While that may be true, we also know that lumping everyone together on basis of a shared religion is a ridiculous as claiming everyone in Manchester is a Man United fan on the basis of a shared city. Everyone who commits an act of terror, made the journey from normal citizen to terrorist in their own way, and while I am not condoning them in any way shape or form, the more we see them as people, each with their own thoughts and agendas, the easier it will be to find a way to defeat them.
I would still prefer to focus on the story of PC Keith Palmer or the heroics of Tobias Ellwood MP, but I have come to realise that the more we understand about Khalid Masood, the more we understand what drives a person to commit such a terrible act. And – at least as far as I am concerned – we learn how close any of us could come to going to same way, were it not for the grace of God and a handful of different choices.