"Enough is enough."
Theresa May's remarks after Islamists killed seven and wounded dozens Saturday evening in London — the UK's third major terror attack in three months — amounted to both a new message and a new tone. The British Prime Minister took aim at the "evil ideology of Islamist extremism" and boldly took a swipe at the political establishment (to which she belongs) for having allowed "far too much tolerance of extremism" in the UK.
"We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are," May said. "Things need to change."
The strong words were also smart politics, likely to resonate among increasingly angry and anxious British voters just days before national elections Thursday. A report published today in Le Monde quotes several Londoners calling for their leaders to "get tough." One woman, who lives just next to Borough Market, where the terrorists Saturday night shouted "this is for Allah" during their stabbing rampage, says "we're not going to take it for much longer." The woman added that Britons "never have the right to speak their mind" and "let themselves be pushed around."
But the deeper challenge implicit in Theresa May's remarks — which carries far beyond Britain to the many other countries targeted by Islamic terrorism — is that stopping radicalized individuals and potential terrorists is merely treating the proverbial symptom. Defeating the disease, the "evil ideology" that drives them, is the hard part. Opposing, undermining, eradicating an ideology is a long and subtle process. It requires going after those who promote and spread the ideology without threatening democratic precepts as freedom of speech and religion.
In the case of Islamic terrorism, the ideology goes well beyond organizations such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the London attack, or al-Qaeda.For years, and especially after terror attacks, experts remind us about the toxic results of Western countries' ties to the founders and funders of terrorism in and around the Arabian peninsula. The main doctrine fueling the "evil ideology" Theresa May denounced has long been identified as Wahhabism, which originates directly from Saudi Arabia and is intimately linked to the country's ruling Saud dynasty. And yet, just last week, the British press reported that an inquiry into terror funding, and said to focus on Saudi Arabia, was likely to be shelved by the government. Perhaps it is a coincidence that this should happen shortly after Britain, like the U.S. and others, approved a multi-billion-dollar arms export deal to Saudi Arabia.
Such is the context that the latest piece of "terrorism" news arrived on our screens: the surprise announcement this morning that Saudi Arabia and several other Sunni Muslim countries were cutting their ties with Qatar over its support for terrorism, which seemed to be a reference both to Muslim Brotherhood organizations and to regional Shia power Iran. Connected or not to the dramatic events that unfolded in London, the move unmistakably looks like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. One way or another, the British and the West should think twice about drinking from that brew again.