By Tehmina Kazi
A few thoughts on Monday’s terror attack in Finsbury Park.
1. There is sometimes a crossover between terrorist attacks and hate crimes — and on the face of it, last night’s attack appears to be both. But of course, it is possible to commit a terror attack that is not a hate crime. The most widely-accepted definition of hate crime is a criminal act which is motivated by bias against the victim’s membership, perceived membership or association with a particular group that shares a fundamental characteristic (this could be race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender or disability). So a terror attack which uses violence to intimidate the public, or a random section of the public, for ideological ends — but is indiscriminate about who the violence is directed towards — would not fall under the definition of a hate crime.
2. Those who have complained about the Preventing Violent Extremism programme “stigmatising” Muslims should at least be even-handed when it comes to the programme’s coverage of far-right extremism. Funny how the critics gloss over the fact that 50% of Prevent referrals in Wales — where the Finsbury Park suspect lived — are for far-right extremism. How about just letting the agencies get on with their job of combating extremism, regardless of where it comes from, rather than demolishing trust in the system?
3. Those who have rightly criticised far-right ideologues for spilling their bile over the internet: where were they when people like Arry Ajalamisalami documented the incendiary speeches at various Manchester, London and Luton mosques in astonishing detail? He has done the research, so you don’t have to. But the least you could do is call out hate speech and the “us vs them” pronouncements when you come across them.
4. Some organisations have attempted to lay the blame at the door of Maajid Nawaz and other Muslim reformers, and I find their lack of self-awareness infuriating. The reformers have done more to build peaceful relations, with their genuine introspection about harmful practices carried out in the name of Islam, than a thousand “Poor mes” from people who work for regimes that see gay men hung from cranes.
5. Candlelit vigils, interfaith meetings, and statements of unity — as well-meaning as they are –won’t change the above reality. And I say this as an erstwhile interfaith volunteer myself.
Tehmina Kazi is a human rights activist and writer based in Cork, Ireland. Tehmina was the Director of registered charity British Muslims for Secular Democracy from May 2009 to August 2016, where she worked to raise awareness of secularism among British Muslims and the wider public.
Contact her on TKazi83@yahoo.co.uk.