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The other story of the Westminster attack: Bravery, commitment, skill, and expertise

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A terrorist called Adrian. How very British. He was even born in Kent, the garden of England.

In some ways it makes the horrific events of the Westminster terror attack even more difficult to fathom. Already, in death, the man who made the journey from being born Adrian Russell Elms to Khalid Masood has been labelled a range of things, from an “Islamic terrorist” to “a nutter.” Experts will try and piece together the elements of that journey and explain to a bewildered populace how and why it ended in the murder of four innocent people and injuries to many more.

We hear of the phenomena of ‘radicalisation’ in cases like this, and the hope that there is an overarching explanation that will tell us the story about what happened to Masood, to the killers of Lee Rigby and every other potential ‘terrorist’ of the future. This is not going to happen.

“Masood’s reasons are unique to him”

We will learn about where Elms/Masood went to school, where he lived and worked, his previous violent offences and possibly when and where he converted to Islam. But why he graduated to this level of violence, what triggered it, how he rationalised it, why it happened, when and where it did, are unique to him and are only open to speculation now he is dead, unless a suicide note or video are discovered. Even then it may not be clear or provide the answers we want.

Perhaps it is more a case, as the FBI is now considering, of considering and understanding the pathway to violence of men (for it is invariably men) like him and the different risk factors on that pathway. Certainly, a number can be identified in his case but are dissimilar from many others who have trodden this path.

“It is easy to lose perspective and think we are under siege”

For some politicians and commentators, however, the narrative is already written. With the media attention given to the Westminster atrocity and the ‘terrorist threat’ generally, it is easy to lose perspective and think we are under siege.

Nigel Farage immediately linked the attack first, to immigration and then ‘multiculturalism’, even in the face of evidence this was not the case. Right wing organisations and sections of the media have sought to exploit the tragedy. Labelling it ‘international terrorism’ misreads Masood’s actions and gives it a stature it lacks.

“83% of Muslims are proud to be British”

At times like this, perspective is required. The UK Census of 2011 identified 2.7 million Muslims living in the UK, with almost half having been born here. A 2012 study by the University of Essex discovered 83% of Muslims are proud to be British, compared to 79% of the general public, and 77% of Muslims strongly identify with Britain while only 50% of the wider population do.

We should not allow the actions of one, disaffected, disturbed and violent individual to define millions of our fellow citizens.

But there is another story of the Westminster attack, of the bravery, commitment, skill and expertise of those people from the emergency services who minimised the casualties, then treated and cared for the injured. These are public servants. It is at times like this that everyone values them.

This has included tributes to the doctors and nurses continuing that care and treatment in the nearby NHS hospitals. And it is in this setting that there is a continuing role in the fight against extremism and the pernicious forces that seek to divide our society.

“There is probably nothing else in the UK that embodies the multiculturalism Farage and his ilk so detest more than the NHS”

There is probably nothing else in the UK that embodies the multiculturalism Farage and his ilk so detest more than the NHS, and particularly in London. It has been noted that Masood’s victims were drawn from 12 different countries. The number of people who treated and cared for them probably came from more countries than that. The Health and Social Care Information Centre have shown that 11% of all NHS staff, 14% of clinical staff and 26% of doctors are foreign nationals drawn from more than 200 countries. That doesn’t count second and third generation immigrants or British citizens outside the UK.

Of course, the negative narrative about ‘immigration’ also feeds into the Brexit narrative, the debate about whether or not EU citizens - including nurses – can stay or will be forced out, with no coherent voice from within nursing demanding they be allowed to stay.

Now is not the time for walls, fences, barriers, and a widening chasm between peoples.

“Supporting the NHS and our public services should be a full time occupation”

The NHS, universities with nursing schools and anywhere healthcare is delivered can use their own communities and communal space to celebrate, promote and advance our diversity and challenge the divisions, damaging stereotypes and prejudices that threaten not only those they’re targeted at but the social cohesion and values the NHS represents and so many of its staff – wherever they come from – cherish, and embody in their care, compassion and dedication to public service.

For government, precisely because of those values and contribution to our society, supporting the NHS and our public services should be a full time occupation and not just at times of crisis.

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