Theresa May attends a campaign rally in the West Midlands town of Solihull ahead of the UK election on June 8, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Ben Stansall/Pool
Theresa May attends a campaign rally in the West Midlands town of Solihull ahead of the UK election on June 8, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Ben Stansall/Pool

It’s sad. It’s deplorable. It’s execrable. But it was in the cards. Perhaps the British prime minister wouldn’t have debunked the possibility of such a gruesome attack either. After all, being home secretary for six years (2010-16) and having an uncanny interest in security affairs does warrant having a significant say in terrorism analysis.

When she delivered her speech at the Royal United Services Institute on Monday, she appeared all too confident of coping with the terrorist threat. Will she be able to get the job done? Or, the more pertinent question to ask is whether she’ll still be in a position to call the shots after June 8.

It’s rather beguiling to note that May has already announced a new approach to counterterrorism and security. How well will it work out? Will her call of “enough is enough” be any different from then-prime minister Tony Blair’s assertion when he insisted after the London bombings of July 2005 that the “the rules of the game are changing”?

May needs to be cautious. It’s not about a particular religion. It’s about the society. It’s about radicalized individuals. Whichever religion they ascribe to, they must be reprimanded. But what was missing in 2005 was that the authorities didn’t go after the origin, but they exulted in getting hold of the originated. The problem, somehow, just didn’t vanish.

But then again, once a conservative, always a conservative. May remarked: “We must do more – much more – to take on and defeat the evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism.” A laudable and strong message to the terrorists. Really? If that’s the case, then what’s wrong with US President Donald Trump’s hate-mongering, anyway?

May, if she stays after June 8, must remember the fact that extremism has nothing to do with a particular religion. It’s a psychological thing. It’s a social tendency. It’s a behavioral pattern. Framing a security policy based on religion, gender, sex or clothing just won’t work for Britain. She’s seasoned enough to have known this already. Was she playing to the gallery and inspiring the right wing to show up on Thursday in large numbers? Maybe.

As per the assessment of MI5, the British Security Service, the United Kingdom needs to have good understanding with the Muslim community. And, mind you, this is the same organization that reported to home secretary May for six consecutive years. If it’s coming from MI5, then it must be something everyone in the UK needs to lend an ear to.

What’s most disturbing is the fact that individuals are being radicalized in the UK. Where are the hate-mongering and extremist ideas being propagated? There has to be a nursery that nurtures such individuals and thoughts. Why not go after those instead of coming up with a new strategy that may affect law-abiding (Muslim) citizens?

Speaking of MI5, here’s what a former MI6 officer has to say. Richard Barrett, a former director of counterterrorism department at the Secret Intelligence Service, warned May on Monday that equating terrorism with Islamist extremism just wouldn’t work. As per the new policy framework, he remarked that “she could just as easily make things worse”.

But, yes, Britain does require a revamped counterterrorism strategy, one that can help fix far-right extremism and hate-mongering. This week, May has repeatedly claimed that being the leader that can rid Britain of the terrorist threat. Her predecessors Blair and David Cameron, when speaking on terrorism, didn’t sound too unlike May, either. The Iraq invasion in 2003 and the decision to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 speak volumes.

Jeremy Corbyn, interestingly though, opposed both of those military ventures. The price he has paid for doing so is that somehow, over the past couple of years, he has been tipped as one of the least knowledgeable persons in regards to Britain’s foreign policy.

Theresa May might have politicized the Manchester and London Bridge tragedies, but how that plays out remains to be seen. Voters in the UK will make the final call. Apart from health care and immigration, Britons will vote based on who they think has a more robust, workable and all-encompassing counterterrorism policy in place.

May they make the right choice. As it stands, yes, “enough is enough”.

Shazar Shafqat

Shazar Shafqat is a counterterrorism and security analyst, and an award-winning essayist. His research focuses on South Asian security environment, Middle East politics and security issues, counterterrorism strategies and military-related affairs. His commentary on the Af-Pak and Middle East security issues regularly features across renowned media outlets including Middle East Eye, Middle East Monitor, The Diplomat, Asia Times, World Policy Journal, RealClearDefense, Dawn, The News International,...