‘Enough is enough.”
British Prime Minister Teresa May’s battle cry to get tougher on terrorism in the UK in the wake of the recent London attacks was less than stirring, but in this topsy turvy world of ours, her comment was singular for, well, saying something more than nothing.
During the past few years, as terrorist attacks on civilians in Europe and elsewhere have become [dare I say] common, we have grown accustomed as well to the formulaic, flaccid responses of political leaders.
“Keep calm, carry on; we will not be defeated.”
Whereas most significant terrorist attacks in the West are inspired by an Islamist ideology, Western leaders are loathe to acknowledge that fact openly.
Why? It’s not that they have an aversion to facts. There is typically a rush, post-attack, for presidents and prime ministers to declare, emphatically, that even if the terrorists self-identify with a particular organization, like, say, Islamic State (ISIS) or the Muslim Brotherhood, that they only represent a teeny tiny fraction of the Muslim population in the West, or anywhere, for that matter.
Teresa May did it. They all do it. And, you have to ask, where is this vigorously asserted fact from? Is it what they wish to believe? What it is politically correct to believe? Or is it, in fact, a fact? On what information is this fact based? This core fact that defines policy.
I have no idea what this fact is based on. I have yet to see any serious study, or any study, for that matter, consider this issue.
However, I suspect that neither May nor any world leader can shed much light on this.
And I suggest that if the pace of Islamist terrorism keeps up in the West, the public’s patience with politically correct platitudes will wear thin. Very, very thin. Very, very quickly.
We hear much about moderate Muslims living in the West, but see and hear almost nothing from them in the way of protest, or even comment.
Where are the op-eds? Where are the street marches of tens and hundreds of thousands? There is a huge Muslim community in the UK. Millions strong. Aside from a few very moving incidents: an imam paying respects at a memorial site in Manchester with an elderly Holocaust survivor; a photo of a group of 10 or so Muslim women, clustered together in a close-up shot apparently in London, in hijab, looking sombre; another photo post-Manchester of a group of about 15-20 Muslims from “all over” the UK protesting the ISIS-inspired massacre of little girls at a pop concert, I ask: where is the rage? Why is this overwhelming majority silent? In so questioning, not for a moment do I suggest that the Muslim community should protest as a separate social entity. But it is important, perhaps more so now, that they openly and clearly express their outrage at this growing scourge. It is important that the moderate Muslim community tell its compatriots, and the world, that it deplores Islamist terrorism and joins with civil society in combating it.
Western leaders love to attribute Islamist terrorism to “lone wolves,” or those with mental health issues.
Enough. Is really. Enough.
These “isolated actors” are anything but. They are inspired by activists in their locale and online. They most often work in small cells with collaborators. Their actions are proudly owned by ISIS, or others of that ilk. And they are, we know, supported by state actors. Pick your poison: Iran. Qatar. Some might even include Turkey. Each one of these countries has their pet terrorist project(s). We have the very recent spectacle of Qatar being isolated diplomatically and economically by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others. Why? For supporting ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Newsflash: the more predictable nation-state world order that prevailed in previous decades has been disrupted.
And we, in the West, are in a politically correct deep freeze, incapable of acting, because we might offend.
Who? Who are we so afraid of offending? How many more car rammings and concert bombings and pub stabbings must we endure until we understand? In the hand-wringing that invariably follows a terrorist attack in the West, there has been much discussion in the UK about how to bolster security, for example, without compromising privacy rights.
Privacy is a relatively new obsession, spurred by Snowden, the digital world and enhanced commerce which thrives on individual information. But, seriously.
Privacy is a privilege. And if we really value personal privacy more than life itself; if we think that the security of citizens out on a summer night is less important than the integrity of a possible terrorist’s telephone or online activity, then we are a doomed civilization.
Liberal democracy is all about compromise, balancing the interest of the individual with the collective interest of broader society. No “rights” are absolute. This is precisely why we elect governments, to manage our broader interests in a way that we, as individuals, cannot. Love and vigils may nourish and embolden the spirit, but they will not defeat terrorism.
Enough is enough.
The author, former Canadian ambassador to Israel, is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. She resides in Tel Aviv.