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May is playing a dangerous game exploiting Finsbury Park attack

Ms May is playing a dangerous game exploiting #FinsburyPark attack

As expected, many have parachuted into the aftermath of the Finsbury Park attack this week to exploit or control narratives surrounding it. It is important now more than ever for those committed to truth and justice to resist this.

Many of us were up late on the 24th night of Ramadān glued to social media feeds of brothers and sisters on the scene of what is now being called an alleged terrorist attack. 47-year-old Darren Osborne was alleged to have targeted and ran over crowds of Muslims after tarawīh prayers, before which, according to witnesses, shouting “I’m going to kill all Muslims… I’ve done my part.”[1]

The reaction from the vast majority of the British public I observed—in the “real world”, ignoring twitter Islamophobes—was very positive and constructive. The reaction from the Muslims local to the area, including those who were themselves injured, was exemplary (māshāAllāh) and continues to inspire many. The actions of one of the Imams of the local community impressed a wide spectrum of society from bringing J K Rowling to tears,[2] to even being hailed as a “hero Imam” by the same right wing newspapers that would any other day jump at the opportunity to smear him.

The following morning Theresa May delivered the usual speech,[3] which impressed some, surprised some and no doubt outraged others. Some were surprised, for example, that despite her and her party’s record, she was finally seen to utter the word “Islamophobia” in a seemingly intentional sense. However, many Muslims and non-Muslims alike reacted with a palpable sense of scandal to what has been described as her “exploiting” of the tragedy, of which we saw echoes in the Queen’s speech. I believe if we are not very careful right now, then our horror, anger and frustration provoked by the rising and increasingly violent tide of Islamophobia will be misused against us.

Misappropriation of “Islamophobia”

“As I said here two weeks ago, there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia.”

Many have expressed an understandable cynicism with Theresa May of all people talking about Islamophobia,[4] whilst others have seen its inclusion into the ‘extremism’ and ‘counter terrorism’ paradigm particularly deliberate and very worrying.[5] She is, after all, someone who has increasingly been seen as partly responsible for the spreading and mainstreaming of Islamophobia in the first place.

This is a person whose party has been studiously ignoring Islamophobia for years despite a senior member calling it out.[6] This is the former Home Secretary who “refused to engage” with a cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group which led to the resignation of prominent academics,[7] one of whom said the fight against Islamophobia was “going backwards”.[8] This is the same person that continually pushed for draconian policies which led to an irrational suspicion of Muslims based on pseudoscience and a systematic ignoring statistics and academic research.[9] This is the leader of the party that manufactured and sustained a false continuum between orthodox Islamic beliefs (as benign as inheritance) with the likes of ISIS and terrorism,[10] and normalised metaphors like “swamp”, “crocodiles” and “trojan horse” to describe non-violent, law-abiding Muslims with beliefs they disagree with.

Almost axiomatically, such a person should not be afforded the privilege to define how we talk about and respond to Muslim suffering.

But even if one were to ignore all of that, and presume that the Tories were to have epiphanically repented for their sins, there are serious negative consequences of spinning narratives surrounding Islamophobia into the tangled web of “extremism” and “counter terrorism”.

For a start, it is likely to prevent the structural and institutionalised nature of Islamophobia being exposed and challenged. It will almost certainly be used to absolve the political elite of their responsibility in the scapegoating of Muslim-ness based on disinformation, stoking irrational and statistically insignificant fears, and feeding the already obese counter terrorism apparatus, which an increasing number of academics blame for the rise in Islamophobia,[11] calling it one of the “five pillars of Islamophobia”.[12]

Where will the blame instead go?

May’s dangerous chess game of divide and rule

Instead of shining a long-overdue spotlight into the structural and institutional spheres of Islamophobia (and racism generally for that matter), placing it into “extremism” and “counter terrorism” box is already severing its centuries old roots and, as Dr Chris Allen suggested, will likely cause Islamophobia to be instead seen as a reaction to Muslim “terrorism”.[13] Indeed, one does not need to look far to find an ignoramus that would refer to the Finsbury Park attack as a ‘revenge attack’ but would throw a fit if someone referred to something like 7/7 or the Lee Rigby murder as such, despite being explicitly-stated by their misguided perpetrators.

Not only that, but as some have pointed out, the image projected of the quintessential Islamophobe is not the blazered middle-class demagogue from the Henry Jackson Society or Quilliam Foundation who provides the carefully crafted fallacies and ideological tinder for Islamophobia on national prime time television.[14][15][16][17] It is rather the lowest, despised “hooligans” of the white working classes that make up the ranks of the EDL or Britain First.

In doing so this perpetuates not just the class war that has been happening since long before Islām arrived on these shores, but Islamophobia itself. Those “peasants” that have been stolen from, disempowered, exploited and left to starve for decades if not centuries by their elite will continue to be conditioned to blame their problems on scapegoats—including Muslims and immigrants—rather than the real causes of their unhappiness. Some may not like to admit this but a large number of those put into the stereotypical “far-right racist” demographic probably have far more basic needs and interests in common with the Muslims they are taught to hate than with the elite that are conditioning them to hate.

Attempted resurrection of the failed “extremism” bill

In her speech May mentioned Islamophobia once, Muslims three times and Extremism seven times. Many had anticipated the exploiting of the Finsbury Park attack to try to revive the perennial failure that is her Counter Extremism Bill proposals. Attempts to make this law have consistently failed because legal experts and members of parliament kept bringing up inconvenience of the vacuous and arbitrary definition of “extremism” itself, which May seemed to be trying to get around by calling for a new “Commission for Countering Extremism as a statutory body” in her speech. She also stated,

“It is why we will be reviewing our Counter-Terrorism strategy and ensuring that police and security services have the powers they need.”

For me this was a chilling echo of her swift call for a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, instead of an inquest which, according to solicitor Sophie Khan, was indicative of her trying to control the outcome or prevent the fairer, transparent and open scrutiny that an inquest would offer victims and their families. Khan told the BBC,

“I’m very concerned as to why Ms May came out so quickly to say, ‘public inquiry’. What is there, that she knows, that needs to be hidden?”[18]

Who is the “we” that will be reviewing the Counter Terrorism strategy? Is Ms May trying to get away with an internal, superficial revamp of the failed and now publicly toxic PREVENT strategy instead of the complete, transparent, accountable and public review that is so desperately required? Is she going to allow—for once—the wisdom of peer reviewed academic research to guide how we approach “terrorism” in this country, or continue to give undeserved, undemocratic and unaccountable free reign for those with a vested ideological or economic interest in telling the public who they should be afraid and suspicious of?

Also not unnoticed was her diverting attention away from the real and oft-repeated resource needs of austerity-starved police forces up and down the country. The last thing they need are even more powers to arbitrarily restrict people’s rights and destroy community cohesion and policing by consent.

The mob must resist its thirst for blood

It is natural sometimes for those harmed by others to harbour a sense of revenge or retribution. This primal rage is what has been exploited historically for governments to gain more powers after a terrorist attack, and this is precisely what Theresa May stands accused of doing. As satisfying to the nafs (lower self, ego) that may be, Muslims do not have the option to respond to an injustice with injustice.

Instead of desiring that non-violent Islamophobes and their families have to suffer the same humiliation and demonisation that scores of Muslims have suffered, or desiring that their families and friends’ homes are raided (referred to as “terror networks” later released without charge after the damage has been done), or that their children are taken away from them; we should take this opportunity to call for no one to be subjected to the inherently discriminatory, “two-tier justice system” that is the counter terrorism circus. History has shown that state suppression of ‘radical’ political views or grievances actually ignites some towards violence as it restricts their choices for peaceful protest. But more importantly than that, the main reason we should not be fooled into tolerating the failed PREVENT policy once angry white people start to suffer from it is because we have a divine obligation.

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allāh, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allāh is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allāh is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.[19]

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allāh, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allāh; indeed, Allāh is Acquainted with what you do.[20]

As tempting as it is to demonise and silence Islamophobic Neanderthals and their ideologues at any cost, our desires have to come second to the obedience of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). We all have to be a manifestation of the small group of believers—who no doubt some call ‘Islamist extremists’ or whatever pejorative—who protected the very man who killed their loved ones on the night of the attack,[21] in obedience to the sharia of Allāh and the prohibition of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) for anyone to be punished without a fair hearing—at a time where mob justice and Trial by Ordeal were the dominant “British values” of the day.

Holding media to account

Finally a similar level of restraint needs to be shown when we expect mass media outrage and rolling coverage of the increasing number of crimes against Muslims. Of course there is an abhorrent disparity in the way in which crimes are reported based on the ethnicity of the perpetrators and/or victims. However when it comes to the hysterical news coverage of so-called “terror attacks” that has led to mass panic and irrational suspicion of “Islamic extremists” or terrorism generally (which kills fewer people in England and Wales every year than bathtubs do,)[22] we should not demand that hysterical rolling news coverage should follow every white murderer, but that there should be no sensationalised coverage of any crime for a simple reason. As Forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz scolded BBC Newsnight years ago:

“Everytime we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”[23]

And indeed, since the Finsbury Park attack East London Mosque was subjected to a bomb scare,[24] and two people have been arrested on consecutive nights at Regents Park mosque allegedly trying to harm worshippers.[25] Just as we criticise the “mainstream” media’s hysterical (and often lionising) depiction of ISIS (which many even advertise to Muslim psychopaths with the undeserved noble title of “Islamic State”) and acts of senseless violence commit by deranged and often suicidal Muslims, we should not ask for the same reckless coverage of serious crimes committed by others because, as psychologists warn, this contributes to an increase in those crimes,[26]—a destructive cycle we have also seen with crimes committed by Muslims using mind-altering drugs,[27] sadly sensationalised all too quickly as “terrorism”.

We must act and take leadership

In summary, I believe we should be resisting attempts from outside the Muslim community and within to apply similar unfair and destructive treatment to those who harm or annoy us. We should hold those in power to account in general and in particular call for Theresa May’s “review” of the counter terrorism strategy to be done under the scrutiny of public accountability. Whilst we should not succumb to supporting draconian policies against non-violent Islamophobes (or their families), we certainly must still speak out and refute the lies, disinformation and propaganda, and hold the media to account,[28] as well as continue to push for a Levison-compliant, truly independent press regulator to make a more responsible and fairer press possible.

We have a divine obligation to resist injustice, take charge of our own narratives and be steadfast. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has given us an important reminder regarding the plots of those that hate us:

If good touches you, it distresses them; but if harm strikes you, they rejoice at it. But if you are patient and fear Allāh, their plot will not harm you at all. Indeed, Allāh is encompassing of what they do.[29]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.facebook.com/i21century/videos/1445483875490110/?pnref=story

[2] https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/876703417938452481

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-following-terror-attack-in-finsbury-park-19-june-2017

[4] https://theintercept.com/2017/06/20/theresa-may-wants-to-fight-islamophobia-in-the-uk-you-must-be-joking/

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chris-allen/islamophobia_b_17214242.html?utm_hp_ref=uk&

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/jan/20/lady-warsi-islamophobia-muslims-prejudice

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chris-allen/anti-muslim-hatred-working-group_b_6064866.html

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/19/islamophobia-government-engagement-muslims-anti-hatred-taskforce

[9] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/exclusive-interview-on-the-science-of-pre-crime/

[10] https://cage.ngo/uncategorized/qur%E2%80%99-tory-indicator-extremism/

[11] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/the-main-reason-we-have-islamophobia-is-the-counter-terrorism-apparatus/

[12] https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/david-miller-tom-mills-hilary-aked-narzanin-massoumi/five-pillars-of-islamophobia

[13] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-chris-allen/islamophobia_b_17214242.html?utm_hp_ref=uk&

[14] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/outrage-over-douglas-murrays-anti-muslim-sermon-on-bbc-sunday-politics/

[15] https://twitter.com/imajsaclaimant/status/877297998031663105

[16] http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/time-tory-right-709511774

[17] https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/06/19/opinions/finsbury-attack-muslim-rhetoric-hellyer-opinion/index.html

[18] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-inquest-public-inquiry-theresa-may-government-hide-deaths-kensington-london-a7792891.html

[19] Al-Qur’ān 4:135

[20] Al-Qur’ān 5:8

[21] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/19/imam-praised-for-protecting-finsbury-park-suspect-from-crowd

[22] https://terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk/report-on-the-terrorism-acts-in-2011/report-terrorism-acts-2011/?view=Binary

[23] Clip available on: https://youtu.be/l8rMYyegT5Y?t=15s

[24] https://www.facebook.com/i21century/posts/1445907938781037

[25] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/21/police-taser-man-suspected-of-attacking-regents-park-mosque-worshippers

[26] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mass-shooting-media-contagion-psychologists-research-personality-traits-us-a7172036.html

[27] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4539550/Is-marijuana-factor-jihadi-murders.html

[28] https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2017/6/20/islamophobic-coverage-of-finsbury-park-attack-must-end-here

[29] Al-Qur’ān 3:120

About Dr Salman Butt

Salman studied Biochemistry at Imperial College London followed by a PhD in Chemical Biology, carrying out research into photosynthesis. During his years at university he became involved in Islamic society da'wah and activism, and general Muslim community projects. He is the Chief Editor and a regular contributor at Islam21c, and also has a blog on the Huffington Post.

7 comments

  1. He callously shrugs of an attack like Manchester as a being a ‘so-called terror attack’ and claims it was ‘sensationalised’. (Children being blown to pieces in front of their parents at a teen pop concert.)
    Desperately tries to externalise blame suggesting the Manchester, London Bridge and Westminster attacks, which immediately preceded the Finsbury Park attack, didn’t influence the Finsbury Park attacker at all and that it was instead purely down to ‘institutionalised Islamophobia’.
    Even deliberately misquotes Dr Chris Allen on this as saying Islamophobia should not be seen as a reaction to Muslim terrorism, when what Dr Allen says is that it should not ‘solely’ be seen as a reaction to Muslim terrorism.
    Then completely contradicts himself saying: ‘It is natural sometimes for those harmed by others to harbour a sense of revenge or retribution’. (Or is that only supposed to apply to Muslims?)
    Totally oblivious to his own incredible hypocrisy – accuses others of parachuting in to exploit and control narratives. What is he doing?
    Claims the white working classes are being conditioned by ‘middle-class demagogues’ and the ‘ruling elite’ to be ‘hooligans and ‘racists’ and blame Muslims for their problems. Yet he appears the very definition of a ‘middle-class demagogue’ and he’s clearly trying to condition working-class Muslims to blame non-Muslims for their problems, specifically white people.
    He’s basically appropriating the conveyor belt theory to explain the Finsbury attack, while simultaneously insisting the conveyor belt theory is completely false and discredited when it’s applied to Muslim terror attacks.
    Accuses the media of hysteria – yet is wildly hysterical throughout, down to headlines like: ‘The Mob Must Resist Its Thirst For Blood’.
    And if this call for calm is genuine why does he immediately follow it up with an inciteful rant about Muslim suffering and injustice?
    Lacking in empathy, externalising blame, manipulative, an overblown sense of self-importance, reckless, oblivious to his own contradiction and hypocrisy. I’m sorry but these are the personality traits of a psychopath.
    And this guy is the editor?!!

  2. Thank you for a lucid and insightful article buzzing with insight, knowledge and a profound observation of the socio-economic and political conditions in the UK, which is coupled with an exact presentation of the history of Islam (and Islamophobia) in the UK – rescuing both narratives from the rubric of Eurocentric interpretation, bias and racism. I must also thank you for your progressive assessment of the British ‘White’ Working Class, which is indeed conditioned to blame all its issues of oppression upon any target – but never upon the middle class! Non-Muslims (and I suspect ordinary Muslims) need literature of this calibre to help uproot this ‘inverted’ mind-set, and approach reality from a dialectically correct perspective!

  3. One minute the young Muslim men were praying in the mosque in the auspicious month of Ramadhan for a just world and for world peace, the next minute they were being terror attacked my a godless terrorist who sat in some closed narrow limited circle and got himself radicalised on some gossip innuendo nonsense lies. Good luck to the Muslims in the war on terror. The good news is that God said that the criminals would not get away.

  4. God has created diverse human beings to live in this tiny global village of one family. Creation by its very nature is diverse with different species, different communities, different cultures and languages. These differences represent the beauty and wonder but diversity is sometimes not fully appreciated, resulting in all sorts of clashes. The British society and Establishment must learn to respect and accommodate others, as if in a family.

    What do you expect form Muslim community who has been victim of Paki-bashing in all walks of life by the British society for the last 60 years? What do you expect from Muslim youths who have been thoroughly searched by police in the streets? What do you expect from hundreds of school children who have been referred to the police by non-Muslim teachers? English hates Irish, Welsh and Scott hate each other and all of them hate Islam and Muslims.

    Multiculturalism is not about integration but about cultural plurality. It is not about separation but about respect and the deepening awareness of Unity in Diversity. Each culture will maintain its own intrinsic value and at the same time would be expected to contribute to the benefit of the whole society. Multiculturalism can accommodate diversity of all kinds – cultural, philosophical and religious – so that we can create a world without conflict and strife. Britain can assume the role of accommodation and concern for all peoples, for our planet and indeed for our survival. Multi-Culturalism is even more important and crucial after 9/11 and 7/7. Muslim youths are also likely to feel alienated by a focus on shared Brutishness, rather than multicultural diversity. Rather than promoting a single British “us” teaching should acknowledge that “us” can be diverse and plural. Children should be encouraged to explore differences in appearance, history and religion to reduce social and educational fears.

    We now live in a world where prejudice and violence against Muslims is firmly established. In a relatively short space of time, we have gone from deliberating whether Islamophobia actually exists to scrambling to deal with its rapidly unfolding consequences. On Sunday night, on the 24th day of Ramadan, an Islamic centre in Finsbury Park was deliberately attacked as worshipers left a nearby mosque.

    Hate crimes of any nature do not occur in a vacuum, and there is a particularly urgent need to examine the context in which this attack took place. For innocent people to become targets, two things must happen: first, incitement to hatred, and then normalisation. Incitement happens when anger is stirred up and people are depicted as less than human. Normalisation occurs when the incitement is repeated, when it begins to feel like part of the scenery. After that, acting on that rage can begin to feel like less of a crime. This applies, by the way, whether the attackers are “lone wolves” or part of an organised network. It applies to Muslims fed dehumanising distortions about those who don’t share their religion. And it also applies to non-Muslims fed smears against their Muslim neighbours.

    We’re all too familiar with the evils of jihadist indoctrination and the need to stamp it out wherever possible. What we’re having more trouble acknowledging is just how far the incitement and normalisation process has gone in Britain when it comes to Islamophobia. It is what we might call radicalisation, were the actors somewhat different.

    The tabloids don’t even bother with the dog whistle any more. What used to feel like griping about PC culture and the accommodation of Muslim sensitivities now reads like all-out war. As a result it was hardly surprising when, shortly after the attack, the Mail Online described the site of the incident as the mosque “where hate cleric Abu Hamza once preached” (it was actually the nearby Muslim Welfare House). These innocent citizens aren’t so innocent, it seemed to be saying.

    Prejudice against Islam in the West developed due to historic rivalry of Christianity against Islam. The defeat of Christians by the Muslims in Crusades was a big shock for the Christian world. These deep wounds are still so fresh in the Christian world today that the parents, media, politicians and teachers feel it a duty to nurture the feelings of prejudice against Islam in the hearts and minds of their young generations. According to Runnymede Trust, Britain has become “an institutionally Islamophobic” society in which Muslims are demonised. Hostility towards Muslims is still a major problem and is not being taken seriously enough by race relations bodies. According to Dr. Richard Stone, there is now renewed talk of a clash of civilizations, a new global cold war, and mounting concern that the already fragile foothold gained by Muslim communities in Britain is threatened by ignorance and intolerance. According to John Gieve of the Home office, Islamic extremism might be a “symptom of disaffection”. The same disaffection previously surfaced during the riots that shook Oldham and Bradford in 2001.

    What do you expect from a so called civilised Brit? Native Brits must learn to respect and tolerate those who are different. Stop treating foreigners like garbage and they will stop ruining your precious country. Why did you let them in in the first place if you didn’t want them here? They left everything in their countries because of your promises. Are you so anxious to please that you can’t say “no”? I would love to see you go to a foreign land where you don’t have any friends, you don’t even know anyone and you don’t speak the language, and start from scratch. I would just LOVE to watch you do that. Let them integrate and stop segregating them. What I want is people being nice to each other. I don’t care about race.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

    • ‘The defeat of Christians by the Muslims in Crusades was a big shock for the Christian world. These deep wounds are still so fresh in the Christian world today that the parents, media, politicians and teachers feel it a duty to nurture the feelings of prejudice against Islam in the hearts and minds of their young generations.’

      You’re insane. The crusades were almost 1000 years ago. They are completely forgotten and irrelevant to modern Christianity. The level of paranoia and delusion to think the crusades have any influence on parents, media politicians and teachers today is staggering. Let alone to use as the basis for some conspiracy against Muslims.
      The only groups that think the crusades are relevant are Islamic extremists like Isis who constantly bring them up to sew fear and divisions and use as a rallying call for Islamic fascism?
      You want people to be nice to one another? Simple, stop fuelling fear and hatred.

  5. Finsbury Park Cover-up? PM May says ‘Lone Wolf’ – But 4 separate witnesses say THREE men were in attack van:

    http://21stcenturywire.com/2017/06/19/finsbury-park-cover-up-pm-may-says-lone-wolf-but-4-separate-witnesses-say-three-men-were-in-attack-van/

    • If there were three men in the van where did the other two go? Why didn’t they drive three vans? Or does it take three racists to drive a van?

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