Last Friday, an Islamic-State linked gunman infiltrated the Tunisian coastal city of Sousse. Disguised as a tourist, he stood on a crowded tourist beach. And then he pulled out a Kalashnikov and started shooting. He murdered at least 38 people, of which 30 were British.
That was no accident. Despising the foreign investment that tourism brings to Tunisia, the Islamic State hopes attacks like this one will scare westerners away and push Tunisia into economic collapse. It hopes economic despair will re-energize Tunisia as a jihadist breeding ground. And the Islamic State’s particular focus on Tunisia roots in its hatred of the liberal-democratic party that won power there last year.
It’s in this political context that British Prime Minister, David Cameron, should visit Sousse and give this speech.
‘Last week, as they relaxed on this beach, thirty British citizens were murdered. They died with the citizens of four other nations. And these innocents were gunned down for a simple reason. Because they were westerners in Tunisia. And in the long term, that makes them an existential threat to the Islamic State.
All of us know that the Islamic State embraces a world of authoritarian medievalism. We know that, because the Islamic State takes tremendous effort to show us. Videoing innocent civilians drowned in cages, or burned alive in cars, or thrown off buildings, or stoned to death in pits, or sold in slave markets, the Islamic State wants us to understand its hate. It’s a hate, the terrorists hope, will scare us into submission. In the same way, the terrorists want to drown Tunisia’s tourism industry by scaring away foreign visitors.
But the Islamic State will not succeed. Because we know the true nature of Tunisian society and that reality encourages us to stay. When our citizens were being slaughtered last Friday, it was Tunisian Muslims who came to their rescue. The Tunisian beachgoers who guided our citizens to shelter, the unarmed Tunisian hotel staff who hunted for the attacker, and the Tunisian construction workers who threw stones to stop him. These citizens are Tunisia. And they represent Tunisia as Tunisia is: a civil society determined to stand-up to terrorism.
And just as you stood up to stand with us, so shall we stand up for you. Today, while our Foreign Office is urging Britons to be vigilant when visiting Tunisia, we’re also calling on our citizens to visit this beautiful country.
We’re not going to give in to the terrorists. Instead, we’re going to double down on our commitment to help you defeat them. We’re doing so because we know that in this war of ideologies, a British presence at this beach is as important as our presence in the skies above Iraq. At stake is Tunisia’s better future and that of the Islamic world.
Because Tunisia is a beacon of hope in the Islamic world. Your recent history proves that. Since a young man gave birth to the Arab spring, Tunisia has forged the hard path to democracy. You’ve proved that modern democracy is compatible with Islam. And you’ve proved that the independent rule of law, and the opportunities of globalization serve society. This is why the terrorists hate you. You’re proving them wrong.
Of course, none of this is simple. In my country, some are criticizing me for encouraging Britons to keep coming to Sousse. And to some degree, they have a point. After all, it would be easy to pack our bags and simply say that we’ll increase our security assistance instead. In the short term, that course of action might actually make all of us safer. Without tourists to attack, our mutual enemies might look to spread mayhem elsewhere. But ultimately, that mirage of security would never last. Abandoning you would be a grave mistake.
Because cowering to the terrorists would prove that brutality reaps political rewards. And it would hurt Tunisia’s economy, empowering Islamic extremists who use human suffering to recruit. It would risk Tunisia’s descent into the malevolence of Islamic supremacism. We know that there’s a better option: faced with the choices of a free society, and the horrors of an ideology that worships murder in a museum or on a beach, there’s no contest. That’s why I’m here. Because this struggle isn’t just about human lives, it’s about a contest of ideologies and ideals. And that’s why Britons will continue to visit this great country. Together, we must show the Islamic State that every atrocity it commits will only speed its demise.’