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Islamophobia in UK breeds vicious circle

  • Published at 08:13 pm June 20th, 2017
Islamophobia in UK breeds vicious circle

The attack at Finsbury Park Mosque was the depressingly logical outcome of demonisation by tabloid headline writers and rightwing demagogues who portray Muslims as the enemy within, British commentators and Islamic leaders worry.

From opposition politicians to JK Rowling and cartoonists in the liberal press, condemnation is building against the swirling currents of hatred that led to a white driver slamming his van into worshippers outside the mosque in north London, shouting "I want to kill all Muslims".

Neighbours of Darren Osborne, the Cardiff man arrested after the attack early Monday, said he was a heavy drinker who had become increasingly deranged after Islamist extremists used a vehicle and knives in a murderous rampage in London this month.

Tommy Robinson, former leader of the far-right English Defence League, made the link explicit in describing Osborne's attack as "revenge" for the bloodshed in London.

Rowling, for her part, pointed to heated rhetoric by Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, as the Harry Potter author tweeted "let's talk about how the #FinsburyPark terrorist was radicalised".

After the suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester last month, Hopkins had tweeted: "Western men. These are your wives. Your daughters. Your sons. Stand up. Rise up. Demand action. Do not carry on as normal. Cowed."

According to government statistics, British whites accounted for 91 of 260 arrests for terrorism-related offences last year, an increase of 28% from 2015 and the only ethnic group to show an increase.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes are also rising yearly and there have been particular spikes after incidents like the attack in London and the November 2015 massacre at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

Spawning newspaper sales

Until this week, the assassination of lawmaker Jo Cox a year ago was the most visible manifestation of the darker undercurrents at play among far-right fanatics in Britain.

But many Muslims say they have long been suffering from daily abuse which has only intensified as tensions surface over flashpoints such as Europe's refugee crisis and Britain's Brexit vote to quit the EU.

Some attacks are physical or verbal, others involve graffiti, the hurling of faeces and vomit, or the smearing bacon on car windscreens.

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, a group that collates figures on anti-Muslim incidents, said the hatred that appeared to have motivated Osborne did not come from nowhere.

The biggest factor fomenting anti-Muslim feeling is Islamist violence, he said.

Raffaello Pantucci, a counter-terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute, concurred that the spread of "poisonous rhetoric" from far-right websites to mainstream media and politics legitimised it in public discourse.

"It's unfortunately a vicious circle," he said, pointing to extremist reactions among some Muslims, "and it's going to be hard to stop in this febrile atmosphere."

Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson responded to the Finsbury Park attack with a drawing of Osborne's hired van bearing an advertisement on the side: "Read The Sun and Daily Mail."

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