British authorities told reporters on Monday, June 19th, 2017, that they were treating that morning’s attack near a mosque in Finsbury Park, London as an act of terror against Muslims. Shortly after midnight on Monday morning, a white van drove into a group of pedestrians outside of a Muslim welfare house, leaving one person dead and 11 people wounded.
According to the Guardian, the person believed to be responsible for the attack is Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old man from Cardiff. Osborne, who was allegedly heard shouting “I want to kill all Muslims” after driving into a group of pedestrians, was arrested on suspicion of the instigation of terrorism. Witnesses said that the incident occurred after a crowd of Muslim faithful leaving prayer had gathered around a collapsed man outside of a mosque. Mohammed Mahmoud, an imam at the Muslim welfare house, was able to keep angry bystanders from causing harm to the suspect until he could flag down a police car to arrest him.
Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene of the attack midday on Monday and promised to provide extra police resources for the Muslim community during the run-up to Eid. “Extra police resources have already been deployed to reassure communities, and the police will continue to assess the security needs of mosques and provide additional resources needed,” she said.
This incident comes after a series of other terrorist acts in the UK in the last several months. Back in March, five people were killed and many others were injured in an attack outside of Parliament. The more recent London Bridge and Manchester attack each left seven and twenty-two people murdered, respectively. Unlike the most recent attack in London, however, these previous attacks have all been instigated by jihadists.
In an NPR interview, Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, stressed the importance of labelling this attack as terrorism. “I think it’s very important for the government and the officials to recognize that terrorism is not something that is just linked to Islam and Muslims. Terrorism comes in all different forms and sizes,” he said.
So far, British officials have been appropriately treating this incident as a terrorist attack. Speaking about the incident, Prime Minister May acknowledged anti-Islam extremism and promised to address the problem. She said that both anti-Islamic and jihadist attacks challenged fundamental UK freedoms such as speech and worship.
“This morning we have seen a sickening attempt to destroy these freedoms, and to break the bonds of citizenship that define our United Kingdom,” she said. “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.”
Experts also say that it is important to address the issues of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim extremism as they can be used to fuel supporters of ISIS. According to The New York Times, Shiraz Maher, deputy director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, said that ISIS supporters have already used the attack in Finsbury Park to support their claims about the clash between Muslim and non-Muslim civilizations and to advocate for retaliation against non-Muslims.
“ISIS has long held the idea of wanting to provoke the West, not just by provoking governments but also by creating pressure on society so that people are driven toward extremes,” he said. Maher also said that the authorities must be watchful for any other assaults against Muslims in the near future.
In the aftermath of this latest incident, the UK remains united in its condemnation of extremism of all forms. Although the attack in Finsbury demonstrates that Islamophobia and radicalization have spiked in recent months, the UK’s decision to treat the attack as terrorism makes its stance on violent extremism clear.
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