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The Globe and Mail

Countering extremism requires political honesty from Theresa May

Shaista Aziz is a freelance journalist who has worked for the BBC, Al Jazeera and The Guardian.

Here we are again. Just two weeks after the Manchester attack, London is again recovering from terrorism. The weekend London Bridge and Borough Market assaults were the third act of terrorism in the United Kingdom in three months.

Remember that the carnage in the U.K. follows a number of equally horrific terrorist attacks in the past days and weeks on people and families going about their daily lives:

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In Afghanistan, bombers targeted people on their way to work, and a day later, people mourning at a funeral were targeted again. More than 100 people were killed in the attacks and many more injured.

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In Iraq, 26 people were killed and dozens injured in bombings. One of the targets was an ice cream parlor packed with families enjoying ice cream after a long day of fasting for Ramadan.

In Egypt, gunmen opened fire on Coptic Christians as they were travelling to a monastery, killing 28 people – including children – and injuring dozens.

So when western politicians make formulaic and predictable speeches about how the terrorists hate our way of life and are targeting our freedoms, they're right. But what they need to emphasis is that "our way of life" is not just the way of life of those of us who have the privilege of living in the so-called First World , in "civilized" and familiar European cities, but the way of life of all of us. A child killed in a bombing while eating ice cream in Baghdad is the same as child killed in a bombing while attending a pop concert in Manchester.

So where do we go from here?

We have two choices: we can either continue with the pattern we've been following until the next atrocity, and the one after that and the one after that. Or, we can step back and change track.

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In the U.K., we need to dig deep and ask some difficult questions about how we got here. We need to seek equally difficult answers that will lead us to real and grounded solutions. In short, we need political honesty. We need leaders who have the integrity and conviction to instigate real change, from how we develop and conduct our domestic policy to how we align our foreign policy.

We need leaders who want to create peace, dialogue and stability in our world, not deepen divisions.

Instead, we have Donald Trump. The so-called leader of the free world tweeted about the merits of his Muslim travel ban hours after the London Bridge attack and about how his Islamaphobic and bigoted policy would keep America safe. He then went on to troll the mayor of London – one of the U.K.'s most popular political figures and the highest-profile British Muslim holding political office.

Mr. Trump has the audacity to accuse Sadiq Khan of showing weak leadership in the face of the London atrocities.

David Lammy, the former Labour minister for higher education and skills, spoke for many of us Brits when he tweeted Mr. Trump: "Stop commenting on what has happened in my city. Put your phone down."

And what of the woman who wants to be elected Prime Minister when the U.K. goes to the polls in three days time?

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Theresa May has shown that she is not interested in looking for real and meaningful solutions to deal with the new reality that terrorism poses to the lives of British people. Instead, she has hit repeat, saying there is "too much tolerance of extremism" in the U.K. – implying that British Muslims have turned a blind eye to individuals pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, trotting out the tired-out trope that British Muslims are the only ones who can stop the terrorists.

Such a claim disregards that the Manchester bomber, Salman Abeidi, was flagged to the authorities at least five times as an individual who was showing signs of radicalization. The same pattern is being repeated (so far) following the London attack, with reports that locals contacted the police two years ago to report the individual believed to be the terrorist ring leader.

After the London attack, Ms. May responded by saying "enough is enough," and I couldn't agree with her more: enough is enough, Ms. May.

Enough of the police cuts that have removed 20,000 officers from our streets, including community police officers. We need a properly funded police service to deal with the terrorism threats to our country.

Enough of the narrative that there is an us and them when it comes to tackling terrorism – there is only we.

The U.K. is deeply polarized, and there is a growing trust deficit between many of our politicians and the people. Empty sound bites will do nothing to heal these divisions.

Nobody in this country tolerates extremists, other than extremists.

And enough is enough of Britain's blind support for the likes of the Saudi Arabian government, responsible for promoting extremism and its sectarian agenda around the world.

If Theresa May is serious about tackling extremism, she will ensure the long-delayed inquiry report into foreign funding and support of jihadi groups in the U.K. will be released immediately.

We are judged by the company we keep and by our actions. It is time for Ms. May to walk the walk and not just talk the talk on countering extremism.

Video: Theresa May: 'This was an attack on the free world' (Reuters)
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