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.