We do not disagree with anything the police have said today as they prepare for their counter-terrorism programme this week.
Of course everyone should stay vigilant against threats and keep their wits about them, and a reminder that the first layer of community safety is the community itself – as in all of us – is no bad thing.
But while we support the week and its aims – and are happy to publicise it on page 5 of today’s paper – there are a few things that also do no harm to reiterate.
The first of these is that while nationally, recently, there have been suggestions that big events may have been on terrorist groups’ target list, such as the Remembrance Day commemorations in London, as yet nothing has been proven and, more pertinently, these plots are exceptionally rare. Huge crowds gather across the country for many different reasons all the time and escape unscathed, buildings remain standing. This is not saying that we can ignore any threat, or to denigrate work done by the intelligence services and the police, this is just to point out that we need to keep the threat of terrorism in perspective.
Secondly, on a more local note, the departure of six young men from Portsmouth for Syria, as has been reported many times, was a worrying development. It was disturbing that they became sufficiently radicalised to head to the Middle East to fight, and sad that four are now dead.
But it should be remembered that nothing so far has come to light to suggest that they were planning anything in this country. This is not to defend their actions, or to justify the barbarity of Islamic State, but a reminder that any counter-terrorism week must not be seized upon by anyone to demonise any section of society. There is no evidence that there is any threat from the Muslim community in Portsmouth, and introducing sniffer dogs to the port does nothing to change that.
As we said, we have no issue with the week; as the base of the Royal Navy we’ve been a target for years. But we would guard against any over-reaction.
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