BY RUTH LEVINE
At the outbreak of the Second World War, zookeepers killed all the poisonous insects and snakes in London Zoo in case it was bombed and they escaped.
In the summer of 1940 Winston Churchill faced a terrible dilemma. France had just surrendered and only the English Channel stood between the Nazis and Britain. Germany was poised to seize the entire French fleet, one of the biggest in the world. With these ships in his hands, Hitler’s threat to invade Britain could become a reality. Churchill had to make a choice. He could either trust the promises of the new French government that they would never hand over their ships to Hitler. Or he could make sure that the ships never joined the German navy by destroying them himself. 1,300 French sailors died as a result in what the French still call ‘our Pearl Harbour’.
Today in June 2018 the UK is home to the highest known number of Islamist radicals in Europe – between 20,000 and 25,000 people – with 3,000 considered a direct threat by MI5 and 500 under constant surveillance. In the four European countries most targeted by terror attacks – Britain, France, Belgium and Germany – the number of official extremists has reached 66,000. French authorities are monitoring 15,000 Islamists, according to a database created in March 2015 and managed by France’s Counter-Terrorism Coordination Unit. Different surveys estimate up to 20,000 French radical Islamists. The number of potential jihadists in Germany has exploded from 3,800 in 2011 to 10,000, according to Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Germany’s domestic intelligence service).
Those poor poisonous insects and snakes. Those poor French sailors. The zookeepers and Churchill made the right decision. We can – and logic dictates we should – mourn such innocents.
So, when are too many Islamist radicals too many?
The number on Belgium’s anti-terror watch-list surged from 1,875 in 2010 to 18,884 in 2017. In Molenbeek, the well-known jihadist nest in the EU capital, Brussels, intelligence services are monitoring 6,168 Islamists. Do the mathematics: there are 18,884 Belgian jihadists compared to 30,174 Belgian soldiers on active duty. Too many?
When will Europeans learn from the zookeepers and from Churchill? When is too soon? When is too late?