Asserting that Islamism is a “perversion of Islam”, Prime Minister Theresa May has said the threat cannot “be defeated through military intervention alone” and that “people’s minds must be turned away from Islamism”. She has stated the Government will attack Islamist extremism’s “safe spaces” and counter-terrorism strategies will be reviewed.
The Prime Minister made the statement outside of 10 Downing Street Sunday morning following chairing a meeting of the crisis response committee COBRA, and outlined four areas for change.
Referencing the Westminster terror attack and Manchester attack, Mrs. May said: “In terms of planning and execution, the recent attacks are not connected. But we believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threats we face as terrorism breeds terrorism.
“Perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots after years of planning and training – and not even of attackers radicalising online – but copying one another.”
“We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change and need to change in four important ways”:
1) Mrs. May stated that the attacks are bound together by “the single ideology of Islamist extremism” which she called “a perversion of Islam”.
“Defeating this ideology is the greatest challenge of our time. But we cannot defeat it through military intervention alone” or with permanent defensive counterterrorism operations.
She said it will only be defeated when “people’s minds are turned away” from Islamism and they are “made to understand that our values…are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate”, she said, in defence of Britain’s “pluralistic” values.
2) “Safe spaces” where this ideology is allowed to breed online must be tackled, she said, adding that the British Government must work with foreign governments to reach “international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism planning”.
3) The prime minister also targeted “safe spaces that exist in the real world”.
“Yes that means military action to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but that also means taking action here at home.”
“There is, to be frank, too much tolerance of extremism in the country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society.
“That will require often embarrassing and difficult conversations. But the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism and we need to live our lives not as a series of separated, segregated communities but as one truly United Kingdom.”
4) Mrs. May stated there would be a review of the current counter-terrorism strategy.
“As the nature of the threat becomes more complex, fragmented, and hidden, especially online, the [counter-terrorism] strategy needs to keep up.
“So in light of what we are learning about the changing threat, we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure police and security services have all the power they need.
“And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terror-related offences, even for apparently less serious offences, that is what we will do.”
“It is time to say enough is enough. everybody must go about their lives as they normally would.”
The prime minister stated that the Conservative Party and other parties will suspend campaigning for Sunday, but the election will go ahead as planned on Thursday.
The threat level remains at ‘Severe’ and is set by JTAC – the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.
JTAC sits within MI5 and is independent of Government.