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Imagine police wake you. Though not suspected of any involvement in violence, you are being investigated for terrorism-related offences, on the basis of a remark by your three-year-old at a playgroup or childminder’s.
'Timor mortis conturbat me' – the fear of death disturbs me. These words, from the liturgy of the Roman Catholic church, first became a literary device in medieval times, bracketing human follies and fears within the ambit of our common mortality.
Do they expect us to believe it all again? With weary familiarity, I have been reading the government’s claims that we face a heightened “terror threat”. UK governments have been making this claim every so often since 2001. It is usually followed by a fresh restriction of civil liberties or the departure of British troops to yet another war zone.
UK home secretary Theresa May has promised to get tough on “non-violent extremism” as well as terrorism. Unless this is narrowly defined, such measures may undermine civil liberties and do more to promote than to counter violence.
Towards the end of last month, on a Sunday of all days too, I woke up to be confronted with deeply distressing images of the ongoing and violent standoff at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi (Kenya) and also of the horrid attack on All Saints’ Church in Peshawar (Pakistan).