Monday, June 5, 2017

Jihad Returns To Britain

The U.K. is waking up to the ideological nature of the Islamist threat.


By Review & Outlook
The Wall Street Journal
June 5, 2017

Saturday’s terror attack in the heart of London, Britain’s third murderous assault in 72 days, poses a difficult choice for free societies: Do more to contain this internal Islamist insurgency now, or risk a political backlash that will result in even more draconian limits on civil liberties.

Islamic State claimed responsibility late Sunday, and the operation that killed seven and wounded 48 bore the hallmarks of recent jihadist atrocities. The London Bridge area and nearby Borough Market are packed with bars and restaurants popular with tourists and young people. The three alleged perpetrators rammed a van into pedestrians, then began stabbing people before police shot them.

Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday’s attack wasn’t directly linked to the suicide bombing committed by Salman Abedi at a pop concert in Manchester last month. But the three attacks in succession show why governments must target the threat at its roots, in self-isolating Muslim communities that reject mainstream values and create homegrown or Islamic State-inspired radicals like Abedi.

On this front, Mrs. May is well ahead of many of her European counterparts. The Prime Minister in a speech Sunday morning outlined a new counterterror strategy that puts ideology and Muslim integration at the forefront. The trio of recent attacks in Britain, she said, were “bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism.”

Mrs. May went on to call for a battle of ideas against Islamism and tough love for British Muslims who have failed to confront radicals in their mosques and community centers. Said the Prime Minister: “We need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom.”

Mrs. May suggested this would involve “difficult and often embarrassing conversations” with the Muslim community, and she is right. This has to include an end to political coddling of so-called soft Islamist groups and imams who treat candor about the Islamist threat as anti-Muslim or refuse to identify radicals in their midst.

The one misstep in an otherwise clear-eyed speech is Mrs. May’s suggestion to outsource surveillance of jihadist online speech to social-media platforms. This line is popular among Western leaders because it provides an excuse for their failure to defend the need for Big Data surveillance and threat analysis following Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency thefts.

Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook and Google bear some of the blame because they joined the fashionable campaign against the NSA’s metadata collection. And by all means Facebook, Twitter and other social media need to police their sites against the promotion of violence and jihad. If they refuse, politicians will eventually do it for them because Western publics will not allow mass murder to become a new normal.

But that’s all the more reason for governments to revive the use of Big Data and surveillance to prevent attacks to avoid even worse intrusions on civil liberties. As attacks continue, so will political pressure for measures such as quarantines and mass preventive arrests of people on terror watch lists.

On that score the U.S. is no exception. President Trump responded to the London attack in a typically heavy-handed way with a tweet urging “the courts” to restore his travel ban. But the anti-antiterror left needs to realize that hostility to surveillance and honest debate about jihad will make such bans inevitable if attacks continue—and Mr. Trump won’t be the only politician pushing them.


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