Failing to confront far-right terrorism will only embolden the other barbarians among us
The Daily Telegraph
June 19, 2017
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One man has died and 10 others were wounded after a van was rammed into worshippers outside Finsbury Park mosque in north London Monday night. The killed and injured are the latest victims in a grim wave of attacks that have plagued the country in recent months.
The victims all have one thing common. They lost their lives not because they did harm to anyone. They were murdered, in cold blood, simply because of who they were.
To Islamic extremists we are not human beings – mothers, husbands, children. We are infidels unworthy of life and deserve to die at the sword of radical Islam. To far-right extremists all Muslims are potential terrorists. They are “fair game” in the struggle to preserve the identity of our country in the name of ethno-nationalism.
The perpetrators behind such senseless acts of barbarism do not conceal their motivation. They take pride in it. According to an eye witness at the scene of last night’s attack, the suspect – a 48-year-old white man who was detained by members of the public before being arrested by police – screamed "I'm going to kill all Muslims”.
These killers all have one thing in common: they are terrorists.
Terrorism has not one religion. Terrorism is not linked to one ideology. It is a tactic that has been used by many groups for many centuries to achieve political ends.
The government has labelled the attack at Finsbury Park mosque an act of terrorism and the investigation of the incident is being carried out by the Counter Terrorism Command.
This is hugely significant. The language used by Islamic extremists and far-right perpetrators is similar. Their crimes are similar. Yet public discourse has somewhat been hesitant to apply the term terrorism to atrocities not grounded in Islamic extremism.
But for words to have any meaning we must apply them consistently, without moral double standards. Using the wrong words, either deliberately or by neglect, to describe the exact same problem distorts public perceptions, as well as the decisions taken by our leaders. If we rightfully call someone an Islamic extremist for killing in the name of radical Islam, then we also have to call someone a far-right extremist for murdering in the name of white nationalism.
Finsbury Park mosque has a complicated history. For many years it served as a hotbed for extremists dating back to the arrival of Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was the mosque’s imam from 1997 to 2005. Hamza, a notorious hate preacher, is thought to have radicalised with his poisonous sermons attendees such as Zacarias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaeda operative involved in 9/11, and Mohammed Sidique Khan, one of the four suicide bombers who blew themselves up on the London underground and a bus in July 2005. The mosque was eventually raided by police and shut down in 2003 before reopening in 2005 under new management.
Does that mean they had it coming? Absolutely not. Although, sadly, it is only a matter of time until someone will suggest exactly that. Few things in life are absolute, but this is one: there is no justification or excuse for terror.
Our drones are not “triggering” Islamic extremists to blow themselves up among a crowd of children at a pop concert. And the decision to attend mosque is not “making” far-right extremists ram cars into a group of worshippers. Victim-blaming is not just revolting. It is also dangerous for it takes away agency from the perpetrators.
We demand not to absolve Islamic extremists of responsibility for their acts of violence on the grounds of any grievances, real or perceived, and we must be very clear not to allow excuses to be made in this case either. When Islamic extremists strike, we seek out the hate preachers within Muslim communities that declare war on our way of life. We must do the same to those that encourage violence against innocent Muslims.
After the attacks in Manchester and London, we were told that Britain stands united. But the frightening truth is that there are barbarians among us, born and raised in this country, Muslims and non-Muslims, that are determined to divide us through acts of terror.
Both Islamic and far-right extremism produce the same type of people, driven by the dehumanisation of “the other”, that are willing to kill for their cause and cleanse society of an undesirable ethnic or religious group. It is exactly this negative reciprocity between Islamists and the far-right that makes consistency when dealing with their crimes pivotal as a first step to break the vicious cycle of violence.