The British government is being urged to do more to tackle violence by right-wing extremists, following the attack outside London’s Finsbury Park mosque in the early hours of Monday morning.
One person died and at least 11 were injured when 47-year-old Darren Osborne from Wales drove his van into a crowd of worshippers, reportedly shouting, “I want to kill all Muslims.” He was pulled from the vehicle and held by members of the public until police arrived.
Just two days earlier, activist Fiyaz Mughal had addressed worshippers at the same mosque warning them of the dangers of attacks. He told VOA that authorities are failing to recognize the danger.
“I think the government has been slow in seeing the threat that is also emanating from some of those sources, which repeatedly daily pump out anti-Muslim rhetoric, which in a way creates the environment for the potential for violence,” he said.
Mughal founded the organization Tell Mama, which collates and reports attacks on Muslims. The website lists recent incidents: physical violence, windows smashed, bacon left on cars, a bag of vomit thrown at a Muslim driver. It says anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased fivefold since the Islamist terror attack in Manchester last month.
“It has social impacts, it certainly has mental health and emotional impacts, and it creates this ‘them and us’ thinking, which is particularly problematic and in some cases dangerous because extremists play on that,” said Mughal.
The London mosque attack came almost exactly one year after a terrorist with extreme right views killed British MP Jo Cox. The number of right-wing extremists flagged to the government’s anti-terror ‘Prevent’ program has soared by 30 percent, according to British media reports. Terror expert Paul Jackson of the University of Northampton said Islamist and extreme right terrorism must be addressed in different ways.
“Especially the way the Prevent agenda in the UK is very focused on tackling Islamist extremism and is using that as a way to tackle the far-right and the extreme right and the issues that it poses — I think it still needs to be looked at.”
Critics blame conservative media and politicians for stoking tensions against Muslim communities. Jackson said the link is difficult to pin down.
“My sense is that there’s got to be some sort of relationship between wider mainstream perspectives that seem to be normalizing very extreme attitudes towards Muslim people.”
The opposition Labour party has called for an overhaul of the Prevent program — while the government insists it is committed to tackling all forms of terror.