Following the attack on multiple Muslims at Finsbury Park in London this week by a white guy in a van, there have been predictable reactions from the media and from the left. Both of which seem somewhat wonky to me.
The media have downplayed the terrorist element (though perhaps not as much as a lot of people are saying) – describing Osborne as a ‘lone wolf’, ‘unemployed’, ‘mentally ill’ and so on. All very similar to the fallout of Jo Cox’s murder last year. The reactions to this from Muslims and the left has been to call it out as hypocritical: lone wolf for white guy, terrorist for brown guy.
I can certainly see the disparity in media reporting – just looking at The Times front pages below, it is horribly clear. But then, at the same time, when some bozo tweets something smug about the Christian clergy not being held accountable for this attack, it is clear that both sides are looking at things in a rather black and white, if not just plain barmy, manner.
The definition for terrorist: ‘a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.’
Now, just from that definition, should Jo Cox’s murderer Thomas Mair be called a terrorist? He killed a politician, just before, and seemingly in relation to, a hugely divisive EU referendum, and shouted Britain First while committing the disgusting act. So, terrorist does seem to be an apt description – it is hard to deny that with any legitimacy. However, lone wolf and mentally ill are just as legitimate here. He wasn’t acting as a part of a terrorist cell, in which the act was planned as one of many.
In this recent act from Darren Osborne, the motivation was clearly Islamophobia. But is this better described as a hate crime? A hugely blatant and destructive one, of course, but if he had attacked one Muslim (or anyone for their race or sexuality or whatever) with his bare hands would this not just have been called a hate crime? What makes this even considered as terrorism? The scale, perhaps; the method, most likely. A method that was used purely because it has been used by numerous Muslim terrorists recently. Was there anything political in its nature, as per the definition of terrorist? The many terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam has secured it as a political issue, no doubt, linking it to issues such as immigration and security, as well as it being an attack on the West’s freedoms and social liberalism. So, let’s agree that Osborne, like Mair, is a terrorist.
Again, though, the lone wolf and mentally ill labels are also valid descriptions. Right wing media and politicians are most definitely to blame here. Both Mair and Osborne were known to have been heavily influenced by the hatred and prejudice that spews from these sources. There are genuine differences with the likes of Mair and Osborne, though, compared to the Islamic terrorists. This should not be dismissed so flippantly by the left just because they think it is tolerant to do so.
A rational mind, free from the clutches of superstition, should come to the conclusion that believing in the existence of an all powerful creator who watches over us all so that He can make sure we get what we deserve in some afterlife (all without a shred of proof) would be a clear indicator of mental illness. This, rather surprisingly, is not the world we live in yet, and there are an alarming number of rational, intelligent, and peaceful humans walking the Earth with this irrational belief purely because it is such a shared and well established delusion.
The point is, that calling a member of ISIS mentally ill is probably not a fair description in the current time we live. And, although there have been instances of independent Muslims taking it upon themselves to attack people, they are usually working with other like-minded and deluded evil dickheads.
Also, what Darren Osborne did was retaliation against these ever more frequent attacks. It was stupid, it was evil, it was counter-productive, it was wrong, it was perpetrated against Muslims who are probably peaceful members of the community. But, as well as Osborne’s personal demons, it was a result of two things – the atrocities that have been committed by Muslims in the past fifteen years or so and the rise of the far right. Any rational human tends to agree with the latter being a bad and scary thing which needs to be stopped; but it is the former that is (yet again) being ignored here for fear of coming across as Islamophobic.
These white terrorists were mentally ill, bad people and would probably have done bad things whatever cause they latched onto. This does not seem to be the case for most Muslim terrorists. Without the cause – killing us infidels to get to paradise – one doubts they would be so committed to killing themselves and others. They think they’re being good. Think about this for second: If you believed in an all powerful being that a) gave you existence in the first place; b) can send you to either paradise or damnation for eternity; and c) only wanted you to kill non-believers to make it to heaven, then seriously – what would you do? I know that I’d be strapping that vest on without hesitation.
And sure, perhaps these terrorists are interpreting the Quran incorrectly. But, they are doing these horrific things because they are Muslim. Not because they’re poor; not because they’re unemployed; not because they’re immigrants. Whoever is right or wrong about what this imaginary God is telling them through a 1000+ year old book, the fact that so many Muslims are interpreting it in this way has to be acknowledged and it has to tackled, just as the rising fascism does.
I am not claiming to have the answers here. I just think that those of us not on the far right need to (at the very least) start asking the questions.