On November 29, Usman Khan went on a stabbing spree in central London, killing two and wounding three. The episode, as Theodore Dalrymple puts it, would have seemed too absurd had it appeared in a work of satire: Khan, a previously convicted terrorist who had been released after attending one of Britain’s rehabilitation programs for “extremists,” attacked a conference celebrating one of those programs. Dalrymple writes:
In 2012, Khan, along with eight others, was convicted for plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange, kill Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, and plant bombs in synagogues, among other places; he had also planned to set up a military training camp for terrorists on his ancestral lands in Kashmir. His 2019 attack was evidently no flash in the pan or rush of blood to the head. After all, he was a disciple and close friend of Anjem Choudary, the extremist preacher and founder of the now-proscribed Islamist terrorist group, al-Muhajiroun.
Despite the attack, Dalrymple continues, Britons remain in the grip of three “superstitions” propagated by criminologists, sociologists, and psychologists:
The first superstition is that terrorists are ill and are both in need of and susceptible of “rehabilitation,” as if there existed some kind of moral physiotherapy that would strengthen their moral fiber, or a psychological vaccine that would immunize them against terrorist inclinations. The second is that, once terrorists have undergone these technical processes or treatments, it can be known for certain that the treatments have worked, and that some means exist to assess whether the terrorists still harbor violent desires and intentions. The third is that there exists a way of monitoring terrorists after their release that will prevent them from carrying out attacks, should they somehow slip through the net.
All three superstitions are false, though they have provided much lucrative employment for the tertiary-educated and have contributed greatly to Britain’s deterioration from a comparatively well-ordered society to a society with one of the West’s highest rates of serious crime. . . . Meanwhile, the father of the slain young criminologist said that he would not want his son’s death to be “used as a pretext for more draconian sentences.”