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A refusal to submit

Stockholm, Sweden is latest European city in which a hijacked vehicle was used as a weapon to run down unsuspecting pedestrians. Four dead and 15 injured was the bloody tally on Stockholm’s iconic pedestrian street “Drottninggatan” before the hijacker seemingly lost control of the vehicle, a beverage distribution truck, and crashed into a corner of the landmark department store, Åhlens.

The authorities are treating the attack, which happened on Friday afternoon, as an act of terrorism. In contrast to similar despicable acts where vehicles were used as weapons perpetrated in France (Nice), Germany (Berlin) and UK (London), the hijacker and suspected terrorist was later apprehended and remanded in custody with investigations ongoing.

Swedish news outlets have understandably been fully preoccupied with the mayhem and ensuing chaos in Stockholm. Sadly it was not the only carnage to take place over the weekend. For instance in Egypt, Coptic churches were targeted by bombs in Tanta and Alexandria and the week prior St Petersburg, Russia had suffered a bombing on its iconic metro. Not to forget the ongoing strife in other parts of the world where the use of car bombs and other heinous contraptions frequently occur indiscriminately killing and maiming those unfortunate to be in the vicinity.

This diabolical drama unfolded outside the offices of the Swedish Bioenergy Association (Svebio) where this publication has its workplace. One of the busiest pedestrian streets in the country, the actual stretch of Drottninggatan is used daily by staff including the undersigned, in getting to and from the office as well as the occasional lunch. Thankfully nobody working here was directly affected apart from the shock and chaos in getting home Friday evening.

Irrespective of how and where such abominable atrocities take place, the senseless loss, pain, and suffering caused to those individuals and families afflicted is unimaginable and our thoughts are with them.

The why, if this indeed turns out to be a deliberately planned ideologically motivated act of terrorism, is as unsettling as it is incomprehensible in any stable, secular and liberal democracy. Through its seeming randomness, such acts target what is at the heart of a secular, liberal and democratic society; the fearless freedom of expression and movement irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, political- or religious outlook.

One of several police vehicles parked outside of Åhlens buried under flowers as passersby express grief over the attack but also gratitude and appreciation towards police and emergency services.

One of several police vehicles parked outside of Åhlens buried under flowers as passersby express grief over the attack but also gratitude and appreciation towards police and emergency services.

Thanks to all who have offered condolences and inquired about our well-being; your concern and compassion is heartening and encouraging. As it happens, I was not in the office or in Stockholm Friday last. The atmosphere on this morning’s regional train to Stockholm filled with commuters like me was quiet and reflective. The walk from the central station to work via Drottninggatan was poignant and somber yet defiant.

A firm refusal to be subdued by fear into some sort of involuntary paranoid mental submission, a refusal to view all vehicles and drivers going about their business as potential weapons and terrorists, a refusal to suspect all fellow citizens with different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds as being potential threats.

A refusal to let terror dictate the terms and conditions of our everyday lives in a secular, liberal and democratic society.

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