It was November 25, 1993. The city was Cairo, the capital of Egypt. The event was a bomb blast, a car bomb. The target was the Prime Minister of Egypt, Atef Sedki. The attack was orchestrated by the head of Islamic Jihad at the time and now head of Al-Qaeda – Ayman al Zawahiri. The attack was not a surprise for people as the group had killed more than 240 people in terrorist attacks in the past two years. The interior minister was also targeted earlier in August followed by many others. Yet there was one surprise.

The Prime Minister survived as his motorcade raced past a girls’ school on a busy road. One of the doors of his car blew away and hit a little girl coming out of the school. The 12-year-old Shaima Abdul Halim was the only person who died in the attack. “What has she done to them? What is our mistake?” Shaima’s grandmother screamed at a government minister at one point. As per news reports, the official, Education Minister Hussein Bahaa Din, wept.

Next day was her funeral. What was expected to be yet another routine funeral, turned into a massive demonstration. Thousands of Egyptians took to streets, shouting “Terrorism is the enemy of God” as the schoolgirl’s coffin was carried through downtown Cairo. In the words of terrorism expert Lawrence Wright, the backlash was such that “it almost gutted the entire structure of Islamic Jihad”. The outcry sapped the terrorist supply line. Al Zawahiri, who was not deterred by the Egyptian government offered blood money for the dead girl, but that was the ‘enough is enough’ moment for the conservative Egyptian public who till then, had significant sympathy for the Jihad.

Ali Raza and Ghulam Murtaza died in the Lahore attack on Monday along with 24 other victims. Before this, teenager Anas Ayub from Hafizabad, who had gone to Gulshan Iqbal Park Lahore for recreation. He was also not alone. There were seventy-four others, young and old, boys and girls. All innocent. Before that there was Army Public School. One hundred and forty heavy little coffins. 12-year-old Ali Murtaza, who was going to school with his father Dr Ali Haider, an eye specialist, was gunned down on Canal Road Lahore. The list goes on and on. Twenty-three thousand dead as per official figures in the last decade. But still for us, the ‘enough is enough’ moment has not arrived.

Almost all of the deaths have been claimed by entities with open and sometimes obscure credentials. From Lashkar e Jhangvi to Swat Taliban, the entities rose from within and became monsters eating our own kids. These entities are indeed neutralised but keep on resurfacing with fresh supply lines. The cycle of action and reaction continues. A lot can be said about the state and its challenges, inadequacies and responses but society also needs some introspection too.

Societies deal with the crisis of terrorism in a number of ways. The most common are fear, denial and fatalism. Fear is the success of terrorists and defeat of a nation. Fear is hiding in groups and failure to play an individual role. Fear is not simply failure to condemn, but it is failure to stand up when needed. If each one of us had reported the extremists’ hate speeches, recruitment drives and support systems, we might not be where we are. If we had not cowed down by fear of retaliation and had told someone what we saw, we might not be where we are.

If fear is bad, denial is worse. Denial is failure to recognise the problem as a personal problem. It is both denying reality as well as minimisation of loss. Denial is an encouragement for perpetrators to carry on without any reaction. It is calling terrorists extremists, extremists radicals and radicals misdirected. It is assuming that a radical who vows to kill the members of a rival sect on social media is just a boaster and assuming that those spewing venom through loud speakers do not mean it. Well we have learnt the hard way that these assumptions come back to haunt us.

Fatalism is pervasive and most damaging when it comes to terrorism. A society that recognizes the problem but does not care. A society that assumes that this is a phase and will pass soon. A society that surrenders itself to fait accompli of death and destruction. It is fatalism that makes us to move on after every tragedy, that does not halt and introspect. What kind of society are we? Do we fear and deny and embrace fate? Or do we shout at the top of our voices that terrorism is enemy of God, people and country?