Far-right terrorist attacks London mosque

Solace: Muslims prayed on the street in the hours following the attack. © Getty

Just past midnight on Monday a man drove a van into worshippers at a London mosque. One man is dead. Many are now blaming the attack on a pervasive Islamophobia in the UK. Is this fair?

Although it was 00:20 on Monday morning, the Seven Sisters Road in North London was abuzz with life. As the holy month of Ramadan draws into its final week, dozens of Muslims had flocked to the Finsbury Park Mosque for the final prayer of the evening before breaking their fast.

A group were helping an elderly man who had fallen down on a side street as they waited for their next set of prayers.

It was then that a white van came down the street, mounted the pavement and drove into the crowd of people.

“I want to kill all Muslims”, eyewitnesses heard the driver shout.

A large man of 47 was grabbed as he got out of the van at the scene. The imam of the mosque, Mohammed Mahmoud, reportedly told worshippers not to hurt the suspect, but instead to “pin him down” so he could be arrested.

The attacker was later named as Darren Osborne, a father of four who lived in Cardiff.

One person has died, and police have confirmed that it was the man who was receiving first aid immediately before the attack.

The attack was quickly declared a “terrorist incident”. Theresa May said Osborne “targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives”. The attack took place in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency. He attended prayers at the mosque last night.

It is clear that those who predicted a backlash following the attacks in Manchester and London have been proved right.

The Muslim Council of Britain called the attack “the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia”, highlighting a “worrying growth” in anti-Muslim sentiment.

As with Islamist terror attacks, discussion instantly began about the killer’s motivations.

Collages of provocative right-wing front pages soon spread all over social media, including the Daily Express’s “Muslims tell British: go to hell!” and The Sun demanding a partial ban on burkas.

Some believe that these are just as inflammatory as the most radical Muslim preachers. Are they correct?

Stirring up hate

Absolutely, say some. No attack takes place in a vacuum. The aim is to stir up anger among people, which will inevitably lead a small number to acts of violence. Extremists portray Muslims as one homogeneous group that threatens Britain as it is. As the journalist Peter Oborne says, there is “a shameful Islamophobia at the heart of Britain’s press”.

But others point out that this is the first anti-Muslim terrorist attack in Britain’s history, so blaming an “atmosphere” does not stand up. In fact it is a smear on all the people who read those papers and who have concerns about Islam, but do not go out and kill innocent people. None of these papers actively incite violence, so the only course of action is to blame the man himself.

You Decide

  1. Is an atmosphere of Islamophobia partly to blame for this attack?
  2. Do you expect more attacks like this in the future?

Activities

  1. Define the word “terrorism” in, at most, two sentences. Then write down an example of something that would constitute terrorism, and something that would not, and explain why.
  2. “How much power does the media have in shaping public opinion?” Write 500 words answering this question.

Some People Say...

“Islamophobia is the new anti-Semitism.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That at shortly past midnight on Monday morning, Darren Osborne, 47, from Cardiff, drove a white van into a crowd of people near Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. While little has been disclosed about his background, several witnesses heard him shout “I want to kill all Muslims,” instantly prompting the assumption that this was a far-right terrorist attack. One person has died. As The Day goes to press, he has not been named.
What do we not know?
Whether Osborne had links to any far-right organisations or whether he was a “lone wolf”. He was not known to the security services, so a detailed research operation will now take place. It is also not known whether this attack will result in its own revenge attacks, as many now fear.

Word Watch

Finsbury Park Mosque
The mosque gained notoriety in the early 2000s when Abu Hamza became its imam. There he preached Islamic fundamentalism to several future terrorists, including Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui. In 2003 the mosque was raided and shut down, before reopening and becoming a “model of community relations”. (See the Guardian article in Become An Expert for the mosque’s turn-around.)
Prayers
As one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The last prayer, right before going to bed, is called Isha.
Muslim Council of Britain
An umbrella body representing Sunni Islam in the UK. Its purpose is to increase education about Islam and to “work for the eradication of disadvantages and forms of discrimination faced by Muslims”, but it faces heavy criticism for fuelling identity politics and sectarianism.
Partial ban on burkas
The paper called for a ban on the full face veil in schools, courts, hospitals, banks and airports, but freedom to wear them in the streets and in parks. The headlines in The Sun and the Express both appeared in 2013.

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