It’s Time to Address the Real Motive in Westminster, Manchester, and Now London: Sectarian Hatred in Our Own Back Yards

By Corri Zoli

(Re-published from The Huffington Post | June 9, 2017) Within 12 hours of the London Bridge attacks on June 3, 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May finally said “enough is enough” and called for an explicit, unapologetic focus on Islamist extremism, which is being incubated in far too many British enclaves—in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and elsewhere.

Admitting what British-based security critics have long known—that “there is far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”—May even asserted “the superiority” of pluralistic British civic values. Better late than never, perhaps, but it is still worrisome that it took the UK government three attacks in under three months, with 30 dead, 10 of whom were under 20 years old, to remember that this (and most) nation’s civic values are better than the jihadists’.

Our prevailing logic—exemplified in the The New York Times—has been exactly backwards. After terrorist attacks, victims of terrorism need not exercise “maximum vigilance” lest we all fall prey to “divisive ethnic, racist and religious hatreds.” It’s extremists who promote and use violence and who are beset by hatred. Salman Abedi killed British teenagers because he views them through a prism of prejudicial hate—their “Western” ethnicity, British nationality, assumed religious beliefs, and secular lifestyles (young girls enjoying music in public). ISIS made this case in Dabiq, “Why We Hate You & Why We Kill You,” just as London Bridge attackers fanned out from their low-tech terrorist van, as per ISIS instructions, to murder pedestrians on the open street. Such bigotry is thus operationalized not only to spread hatred but to kill.

It is time to name the sectarian hatred—against Western culture, minority religions, ethnic groups, gender and sexual identities, and others—that motivates much global terrorism and defines thousands of Islamist organizations. Policymakers who tell us “we will not be divided” are like Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit—too late. Each attack brings officials who have tumbled down the rabbit hole of confused logic and policy, imploring the public that the best response to murderous hate is unity—something victims never contested. Suspects are scooped up by law enforcement in a brief frenzy, while weaponized systems of sectarian hatred in neighborhoods and networks are left to fester.

Ordinary people are plotted against as “soft targets,” neighbors and family desperately report radicals to authorities that demur, and victims are lectured to by helpless politicians who defend failed policies as the new normal (it’s not). Meanwhile, pub and concert goers, tourists, and school teachers pay the price for authorities’ failed understanding, as they fight off strategic killers in public places with chairs and bottles, while forced to play battlefield medics, using shirts as tourniquets for mortally wounded compatriots.

Thankfully, this empty narrative and emptier policy response is eroding, largely due to public pressure …

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