A columnist for the liberal British newspaper the Guardian is being ridiculed for suggesting that one way to combat terrorism is to stop building large venues like shopping malls and hotels which draw crowds, thus providing an allure to potential attackers.
Simon Jenkins wrote in the Guardian's "Comment is Free" section on Monday: “The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets.”
“A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault,” he wrote (emphasis added).
Jenkins’ terror-combating advice is being derided by several bloggers. Frimet and Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki was killed in a terrorist attack at a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001, quipped on their blog This Ongoing War: "Uncomplicated, easy-to-follow advice. Terrorism happens because of shopping malls and crowds. Alert Guardianistas will now appreciate that robbery is caused by banks, and traffic accidents by roads.”
Heavy smoke rises from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, on Sept. 23 2013 (AP/Jerome Delay)
“The mind boggles at how far one could go with this argument. Schools, like the one attacked in Beslan, Russia, have proved an enticing target for Muslim fanatics. Should they be closed down too with all children home educated instead? Perhaps we should construct buildings of only two storeys to prevent another 9/11 or close down the underground system to prevent another tube bombing,” wrote the conservative British news site The Commentator (emphasis added).
“The Jenkins model of response is one of abject capitulation instead of resolve and resilience. Securing high profile and well-attended events is difficult, not impossible, as our own experience with the [London] Olympics demonstrated. We must help rebuild that Nairobi shopping mall, not allow it to disappear, and then we must build even more malls,” suggests The Commentator (emphasis added). “The best message to send to Al-Shabaab is one of collective defiance rather than hand wringing...defeatism is a terrible alternative.
Trending Central responded, “So unsurprising perhaps to read today that The Guardian’s response to the Kenya mall attack has been to basically suggest that we all stay at home, giving the terrorists what they want, and allowing society to collapse under the strain of those who would have us killed simply because we are free from their tyrannical views.”
“I take it all Guardian journalists will be working from home, from now on?” it continued.
In his column, Jenkins also seemed to blame the west for encouraging terrorism. “Sometimes we should stop and ask why terrorists commit outrages like that in a Nairobi shopping mall. The answer is the west always over-reacts to big, sensational gestures of extreme violence,” he wrote (emphasis added).
“There is nothing anyone can do to prevent suicide bombers hitting civilian populations. The slaughter of Christians in Peshawar this weekend showed that wherever crowds gather they are vulnerable to any group with a brainwashed youth and a bomb. It might be sensible to discourage like-minded crowds from gathering in one place, be they co-religionists or party faithful or merely the wealthy,” Jenkins wrote.
“There is no defence against the terror weapons of guns and grenades. Nor in any society, free or repressive, is there defence against fanaticism unto death in pursuit of a cause, however madcap and hopeless,” he wrote.
Jenkins also blames the west for “inviting retaliation” from terrorists.
“The best defence is a sense of proportion. The ‘war on terror’ has failed on its own terms. It had made dozens of countries not pacified but terrified. By deploying violence against a succession of Muslim states, the world's leading powers have made their business its business and invited retaliation. They have not crushed al-Qaida any more than they have suppressed extreme Islamism. They have refreshed rather than diminished that extremism, and made the world less safe as a result,” he wrote (emphasis added).