After Finsbury Park mosque attack, Britain unites against extremism
London - The attack outside of London’s Finsbury Park mosque was one of the first high-profile Islamophobic terrorist incidents in the United Kingdom in recent history.
After three radical Islamist terrorist attacks in Britain in three months — Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge — the fourth terrorist attack this year confirms that extremism breeds extremism.
British Muslims welcomed government rhetoric that placed the Finsbury Park mosque attack alongside other terrorist attacks and called for unity in the face of extremism of all stripes.
“It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
“Like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal. It seeks to drive us apart and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country. We will not let this happen.”
Muslim groups warned of a spike of Islamophobic incidents after previous attacks. After the Manchester arena attack, Tell MAMA, an organisation that tracks anti-Muslim incidents, reported that the number of Islamophobic attacks in the city rose to 139 from 25 incidents the week before.
“We saw that [increase] very clearly after Manchester, a very high peak. We saw that certainly after London Bridge,” Tell MAMA founder Fiyaz Mughal told the BBC.
Analysts warned that far-right groups were using terrorist incidents to promote right-wing extremism.
British far-right figure Tommy Robinson dubbed the Finsbury Park incident as a “revenge attack” and said he had warned for years of a coming “situation.” His comments were widely praised by right-wing supporters on social media but strongly condemned by news outlets and ordinary people.
“These are two sides of the same coin — twin extremes that feed off and need each other. Extremists from both sides will refer to material and action from the other to ‘prove’ their worldview, lumping Muslims or non-Muslims into monolithic blocks,” Nick Ryan, spokesman for the UK-based anti-racism campaign HOPE not hate, said in a release.
“In fact, this is what the extremists want. They want the majority mainstream to feel they have no home except in their arms.”
The Finsbury Park attack saw Cardiff resident Darren Osborne, 47, drive into Muslims outside the central London mosque in a hired van early June 19. The attack was like recent radical Islamist terrorist attacks in Britain, particularly the Westminster and London Bridge incidents in which hired vehicles were driven into pedestrians.
Witnesses said Osborne shouted “I want to kill all Muslims” after being pulled from the vehicle and restrained by angry worshippers. Mosque Imam Mohammed Mahmoud received widespread praise for his role in calming the mob and ensuring that Osborne was handed over to police.
Right-wing extremists responded to the incident by calling for more attacks on Muslims, with the British government pledging to increase security around Britain’s mosques and establish a commission for countering extremism in all its forms.
“Extra police resources have already been deployed to reassure communities and the police will continue to assess the security needs of mosques and provide any additional resources needed,” May said.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest Muslim umbrella group in Britain, welcomed increased scrutiny on Islamophobic crimes.
“Muslim communities have been calling for increased action to tackle the growth in hate crime for many years and transformative action must now be taken to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia,” MCB Secretary-General Harun Khan said in a release.
As for whether there could be further Islamophobic attacks, Ryan said: “Sadly, there are usually hate crime spikes against Muslims after jihadi-inspired attacks. We don’t want that to happen, in fact, we say that anyone targeting innocent people from any community is doing the terrorists’ job for them.”