Since time immemorial, man has been stricken by terror. The worst kind of terror is terrorism perpetuated by human beings themselves against their fellow humans. Terrorism remains a major threat to all people. Attacks can occur anywhere in the world, usually with little or no warning. Terrorist attacks always target western interests, including tourists, travellers and expatriates. Most threats of terrorist attacks globally are from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
The most common terrorists in modern times are religious extremists who would often reject the authority of secular governments and view legal systems that are not based on their religious beliefs. In the process of terrorising the populace, they obtain worldwide, national or local recognition for their cause by attracting the attention of the media; and discourage foreign investments, tourism, or assistance programs that can affect the target country’s economy and support of the government in power.
Just this year, the world was shocked to its core by several terrorist attacks. Westminster was attacked on the week that UK PM Theresa May sent the letter invoking Article 50 to the President of the European Union. Most recently are the Manchester suicide bombing, the Maute’s siege of Marawi City in the Philippines, and the suicide bombing in Indonesia.
Twenty-two people were killed in a blast perpetrated by suicide bomber Salman Abedi at the Manchester Arena, including an eight-year-old girl and an off-duty female police officer, moments after multi-awarded pop star Ariana Grande’s concert. The UK government, under Prime Minister Theresa May, has raised the UK threat level to the highest possible rating, meaning another terrorist atrocity is expected imminently. She enforced Operation Temperer, the government plan to put up to 3,800 soldiers on the streets in response to a major terrorist threat. They would guard Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster and the embassies. They also closed Palace of Westminster to the public and cancelled the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace to redeploy police officers.
Tourism, one of the driving forces of a country’s GDP, is most affected by terror incidents. They imply that the places where terrorism takes place may be an increasingly unstable place to live and do business in. In fact, tourism industry experts expected a 30% decline in visitors to France in the month after the 2016 Nice attacks.
During times of conflict, reactive governments and nervous citizens are far more inclined to give up economic and political freedoms in exchange for security. Such a government policy happened in the Philippines on 23 May as a response to the Maute group’s attack in Marawi City. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law, amid protests from militant groups and students, upon the whole region of Mindanao. Proclamation 216, signed while Duterte was in Russia, stated the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for 60 days. Aside from stricter security measures, the government also enforced a price freeze on all commodities.
The gravest effect of terrorism to nations such as the Philippines and Australia are increased nationalism and foreign skepticism. Populism and anti-liberal movements soar after incidents of terrorism. Government policies such as closing down borders to trade and immigrant workers reduce the size and diversity of economic transactions and limit productive resources.
Another worrying effect of terror groups’ activities is the stronger and stricter migration policies on Muslim countries, underlying the deep-seated discrimination and hatred against Muslims. The most controversial migration policy to date is Trump’s travel ban to America of six Muslim countries, now excluding Iraq but emphasising rather Syria and Yemen. This has been criticised internationally as undemocratic, and contrary to American values of tolerance and openness, especially to immigrants and refugees. Ironically enough, the “jihad” that most terrorists use to justify their activities, pertains to the spiritual and moral struggle of an individual Muslim against his or her evil inclinations.
Australian Federal Governments have, time and time again, reassured the general public regarding their efforts to counteract terrorism, especially to uphold their responsibility to rule. It has equipped its military with state of the art machinery and training with other heavyweights in international defence such as Canada, Britain, Japan and America.
More than anything else, each one of us should face terrorism as one community, despite how diverse individuals we are. Together, we can foil the planned attacks of terrorists and preserve the free and functional society that we live in. The best we can do is to 1) monitor media reporting about the countries and regions we are living in or traveling to; and 2) be vigilant. Always be aware of your surroundings. Look out for anything suspicious and if you see anything report it to the police immediately. But we should remember to be compassionate and respectful to others. It is the best way to counter terrorism, by showing that the incidents do not divide, but rather unify the whole community.
To paraphrase Aleppo Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or social status, needs to cooperate and help stop terrorists – not only ISIS but many similar groups – so that we can rebuild a pluralist world where the rights of all are respected.
Related: Watch this video report on Marawi siege