The United Kingdom was beset by yet another terrorist attack perpetrated by Islamic extremists. The latest despicable act killed seven people and injured dozens more.
With the troubling rise of terrorist incidents across Europe, some have pejoratively called the continent “Eurabia”. The attacks have given credence to political candidates who have taken hard lines on Islamism, including the UK’s Nigel Farage, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, and France’s Marine Le Pen.
Despite the growing concerns over Islamism, status quo candidates have been able to stay in power. But perhaps a European head of state is finally willing to enact policies that could stem the tide of extremism.
In stark contrast to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s statement that terrorism is now “part and parcel” with living in a big city, British Prime Minister Theresa May had sterner words that could point toward serious reforms.
From the New York Times:
Declaring “enough is enough,” Prime Minister Theresa May vowed on Sunday to conduct a sweeping review of Britain’s counterterrorism strategy after three knife-wielding assailants unleashed an assault late Saturday night, the third major terrorist attack in the country in three months.
At least seven people were killed and dozens more wounded, including 21 who remained in critical condition, as the men sped across London Bridge in a white van, ramming numerous pedestrians before emerging with large hunting knives for a rampage in the capital’s Borough Market, a crowded nightspot.
In a matter of minutes, the three assailants were chased down by eight armed officers who fired about 50 rounds, killing the men, who wore what appeared to be suicide vests but subsequently proved to be fake. One member of the public also sustained nonfatal gunshot wounds, the police said.
The assault came days before national elections this week and after the British government had downgraded the country’s threat level to “severe” from “critical,” meaning that an attack was highly likely, but not imminent.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had been carried out by “a detachment of Islamic State fighters.”
Mrs. May said that the government might extend the duration of custodial sentences for terrorism suspects, but that more needed to be done in binding communities together to combat what she called “a perversion of Islam,” adding, “There is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.”
Mrs. May, who was home secretary for six years before becoming prime minister, has been pressing for a tougher line against Islamist extremism for some time. By stating on Sunday that police and security measures were insufficient, she was announcing a new effort, if re-elected, to break down what she sees as self-segregated communities and to be less delicate in confronting them.
Legally, she has been stymied by the difficulty of finding a definition of extremism that would hold up in court when challenged on the grounds of free speech.
A good example of the challenge is the case of Anjem Choudary, who spent nearly two decades preaching jihad and radicalizing youths. While some of his organizations were banned, Mr. Choudary, a lawyer, managed to avoid breaking the law while being credited with helping to recruit hundreds of British Muslims to fight for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Mr. Choudary was convicted in 2016 of inviting support for a terrorist organization after film emerged of him pledging allegiance to the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate. He was sentenced to five years and six months in prison.
Saturday’s attack was reminiscent of another on Westminster Bridge on March 22, when Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into pedestrians, killing four people. He then stabbed a police officer to death before being shot and killed near Parliament. The police treated that attack, in which 50 were injured, as “Islamist-related terrorism.”
Even though many of these terrorists are considered “homegrown”, their extremism stems from factors like mosques that are funded by radicals, ethnic enclaves that don’t promote assimilation, and political correctness that stifles honest discussion.
The ultimate way forward is for Islam to undergo a reformation. For that to happen, moderate Muslims and ex-Muslims must have stronger voices to subvert the forces that spread extremism. That can’t happen with the PC police shouting them down and labeling them extremists and bigots.
Theresa May’s comment that “enough is enough” may seem insignificant, but it could be an indicator that honest debate will be heard.