There is, as PM says, too much tolerance of Islamic extremism

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Theresa May’s speech yesterday after the latest Islamic terrorist attack in Britain on civilians was welcome, but not even close to enough.

The prime minister’s demand for example to tougher action against hate speech online is a fair one but very much a secondary issue.

Much more important was Mrs May’s point about too much tolerance of extremism, but she did not speak explicitly at where this tolerance needs to be reduced – within the Muslim community in Britain.

The prime minister’s reference to the need for embarrassing conversations was a hint in that direction but the point needed to be made more explicitly.

It is not good enough for Britain and other western countries to be subject to repeated Islamic attacks and then to keep repeating ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ or to talk in general terms about extremism as if this is anything other than a specific problem with a manifestation of Islam.

It is to be hoped that Mrs May’s reticence to say such things clearly, and instead only hint at them, was rooted in the fact that she did not want a major controversy before the election.

It is entirely right that the campaign resumes today. If Mrs May does win re-election, and defeat Jeremy Corbyn (a man who for decades shown understanding of terrorists and their self-justification), then the prime minister must actually move towards firm measures against Islamic extremism.

One obvious thing that could be done is to build upon this suggestion of Mrs May: “ ... if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorist-related offences - even apparently less serious offences - that is what we will do...”

This must happen, and it must mean very long jail terms for people who go abroad to fight jihad, and for people who facilitate or hide or assist terrorists here in the UK.

If Stormont is revived, soft bail and sentencing policy in terror cases here must be toughened too.