by Julianna Dauchess
Recently, the public has been shocked at reports and pictures of iconic locations in England being marred by destructive terrorist attacks. This Saturday, England was the target of its third terror attack in less than three months, a time which has tested the strength and resilience of the British people. The attack on Westminster Bridge, the bombing in Manchester, and, most recently, the attack on London Bridge have made global headlines and are now eliciting a forceful response from Theresa May, the UK’s no-nonsense Prime Minister. Her words, “enough is enough,” signal a shift in mentality that will hopefully lead Europe to openly target and combat terrorism with more determination than before.
In her passionate speech on Sunday, May responded to the recent terror attacks with a commanding attitude. She called for a radical change of mindset among the British people, who must learn that society’s acceptance of extremism is threatening their safety and that of their children. May has already been harshly criticized for making “blanket statements” about extremist Muslims, but it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that the Islamic State blatantly pronounced that they encourage warfare against the West not because of military action in the Middle East, but because of our refusal to convert to Islam.
While also arguing that the British government must change its counter-terrorism strategy, in reality May has recently been hesitant to make any major changes to the already-existing program, saying that she does not want to succumb to rash decisions. It may be that Saturday’s attack leads to a change in her attitude and results in practical steps forward in this terrorism program.
The Prime Minister applauded the hard work of the police forces that had taken control of the attack just eight minutes after the first emergency call, and she said that she supported lengthening prison sentences for those convicted of terrorism-related crimes. One of her most important points was that of eliminating “safe spaces” on the internet where Muslims can be radicalized. This idea will prove to be very tricky, considering that British law protects the freedom of expression, but steps must be taken to block speech of clear and present danger that has penetrated social media by radical ISIS accounts.
May also rocked the boat when she declared that British people must “understand that [their] values – pluralistic British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.” These are brave and powerful words that strike at the root of the problem. In a society of acceptance and tolerance, responsible citizens must realize that silence can do considerable damage, and they must have the strength to stand up for the values that make Britain what it is.
In addition to many public displays of support for those who have suffered in the attacks (the most notable being Ariana Grande’s benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester bombing), the British government has also taken measures to increase security and stability in London. These efforts include ordering 3,800 troops to join in armed police patrol duties and posting soldiers to patrol Downing Street and foreign embassies as a visual show of force. Armed police have also populated tourist destinations, cities, and airports in order to decrease the threat of another attack on civilians.
The E.U.’s Dangerous Open Border Policy
The three London terror attacks closely follow the nation’s momentous decision to leave the European Union, and perhaps they give a clue as to why the British were so fed up as to exit.
One of the pillars of the E.U. is their open border policy that allows for the free movement of people throughout the different member countries. It is a fact that seven of the nine ISIS jihadists who coordinated the attack on Paris were able to enter Europe by posing as refugees. Because the E.U. has no effective system to regulate immigration or screen refugees, there is potential that this could easily happen again.
While I studied in Spain this year, a Spaniard explained the problems with free movement to me in this way: immigrants can enter the E.U. through easy-access countries like Hungary and then, after obtaining some form of identification, travel freely through the larger and more prosperous countries of the Union. Entrance into Hungary is made even easier when one poses as a refugee, as the nation has E.U.-imposed quotas for asylum-seekers that their overwhelmed government is seeking to revoke.
The UK, which has a very high status in the E.U., is allowed to select which immigration laws it implements but it is not exempt from the free movement policy. Three of the five perpetrators of the recent terror attacks in England hailed from countries such as Pakistan, Libya and Morocco, and the other two were British-born men – both potentially radicalized by trips to the Middle East.
It is no coincidence that unrestricted movement to and from dangerous nations has led to an increase in violent attacks. While the oppressed refugees from the Middle East must be cared for, nations around the world have to take responsibility for properly-screening immigrants in order to decrease the threat of more deadly attacks. Although these measures would most likely take years to come into effect, Theresa May is taking the important first steps in this process of creating a safer, more secure Europe.
The Prime Minister has responded to the multiple and strenuous attacks on her country with grace and unwavering poise. While there is much work to be done in England, she is admirably stepping up to the plate as she says uncomfortable truths that have to be heard.
Regardless of the result of the British general elections, May will continue to be a force of strength in international politics. As she famously stated, “It takes two men to step into the shoes of one woman,” and this is particularly true in the case of Britain’s new Iron Lady.