*Photo credit: Thomas van Hulle
Last night a white man drove a van into a crowd of people outside a Mosque in Finsbury Park. Onlookers allege that the driver said “kill all Muslims” as he exited the vehicle and police are treating the crime as a terror incident.
The attack is just the latest example of a hate crime committed by someone who identifies as white and English. In the build-up to Brexit an MP was murdered by a white man who declared “Britain first” as he shot and stabbed his victim to death and Arkadiusz Jóźwik was killed in Essex my a gang of white British teenagers last summer.
Since Brexit the rise in the number of reported hate crimes has increased drastically, with The Independent suggesting it was up by 100% in February. Further to this we’ve seen the increasing normalization of Islamophobia against the back drop of the war on terror. In 2015 alone lobbying group TellMAMA reported a 326% increase in Islamophobic abuse.
Nevertheless, we should not individualise the problem by targeting the attacker from Sunday evening. Instead we have to view this crime as part of a broader structure. The actions of this individual were clearly informed by anti-migrant, Islamophobic discourses that are not just being spouted by fringe far-right groups, but from mainstream publications and politicians.
This is why we cannot take it seriously when Theresa May vows to “stamp out Islamophobia“. She cannot stamp something out what her government and governments before hers have encouraged and let flourish.
The war on terror wouldn’t have been possible without the imaging of an existential threat from anyone in a Hijab or with beard. Whilst the Tories started the racist, Islamophobic Prevent agenda which pathologizes all Muslims as potential deviants in need of watching, governments around the world have been complicit in fostering the environment we now find ourselves in.
It is likewise disingenuous when media outlets condemn the attack when their very pages, websites and broadcasts have long stoked the flames of Islamophobia.
Katie Hopkins has previously asked for gunboats to be used to shoot down migrants crossing the Mediterranean and more recently called upon “Western Men” to “stand up” and “take action”. Rather like yesterday’s attack, no? She even demanded a “final solution”. Is what occurred in Finsbury Park what Hopkins envisioned?
The former reality TV star was kicked off of LBC for her comments but retained her column in the Sun. Likewise, politicians are almost never criticized when they contribute to xenophobic narratives and are never in fear of losing their jobs.
People like Tommy Robinson, Katie Hopkins and even politicians like Nigel Farage should be treated as what they are, hate preachers, who promote and normalise hate and violence against minority communities.
The words of people like Hopkins carry weight and influence people’s behaviour. There are real life consequences for these calls to “take action”.