Not long after midnight last night I was jolted awake by the sound of police sirens on Seven Sisters Road in Holloway, North London – just minutes away from my flat.
It wasn’t until several hours later that I found out the destination of those sirens. I awoke in the morning to the news of yet another terrorist attack in London, this time near the Finsbury Park mosque, a building I walk past every day on my way to the station, where a van was driven into a crowd of people heading home after prayers.
Racism and Islamophobia
It’s quite painful to process the idea that someone could intentionally drive a van into a crowd of people, many of whom I’ve rubbed shoulders with on more than one occasion, in a place where I, on another night, could well have been myself. This is why attacks like this are called ‘terrorist’, because, like in Westminster, Manchester, and London Bridge, the people killed and injured by them are ordinary people going about their lives, just like you and me, and that is a terrifying thought.
But as I read the news and thought about the attack, my shock was quickly replaced by a flood of anger: at the media, the Tories and this whole death-trap capitalist system.
This attack, unlike other recent terror attacks, was directly clearly and explicitly against Muslims. The one dead and ten injured people were worshippers leaving the building after prayer. According to an eyewitness, the driver jumped out of the van and said that he wanted to “kill all Muslims”.
The Muslim Council of Britain has said that this attack is simply the most violent manifestation yet of recent attacks on Muslims. And this is no surprise. For years establishment politicians have whipped up racism and Islamophobia to turn ordinary people against each other and blind them to the real terrorists hiding in plain sight: the super-rich and big business bosses responsible for selling weapons to Saudi despots and for the criminal horror of the Grenfell Tower fire.
When everyone from the Tories to Donald Trump to the international media, is using rhetoric about “our values” being eroded by immigrants and refugees (many from Muslim-majority countries), these ideas of hate and division can take on a life and logic of their own. The result is sick acts like this. Theresa May’s racist Prevent policies, which disproportionately target Muslims, and her thinly-veiled Islamophobic statement after the London Bridge attack that “there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in this country” have added fuel to the fire of division and bigotry.
There’s a twisted irony in the fact that this attack has taken place today, on the day that the Brexit negotiations are beginning. These negotiations are the product of the success of the Tory right wing’s poisonous, xenophobic, racist campaign to “take back control” from the EU. After the vote for Brexit there was a surge in racist attacks. This latest event is just the most graphic and brutal example of the hatred that Britain’s Muslim population are forced to endure.
When islamist terrorists attack we rightly seek out hate preachers who spur them on. We must do the same to those who peddle Islamophobia— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) June 19, 2017
Racist double standards
Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, tweeted that we should treat this attack like any other terror attack - that is, we should look for the hate preachers whose rhetoric inspired someone to drive a van into a crowd outside a mosque with the aim of killing as many Muslims as possible. Cox is absolutely right. And an honest investigation can only point the finger at the Tories and the media establishment as the hate preachers who have inspired this Islamophobic attack.
But already it’s clear that this is not being treated like any other terrorist attack. Unlike previous attacks, the man arrested at the scene is apparently the only suspect. There has been no talk of his family and friends being arrested and interrogated, or that he might be part of some broader network. If a solitary Muslim carries out an attack, in other words, then all his Muslim friends/family are automatically assumed to be implicated. But if a non-Muslim carries out an attack, it is assumed that he is likely just a mentally unstable lone wolf.
Indeed, the police and BBC News have emphasised that the van driver is going for psychiatric assessment before anything else is done. In previous attacks, we’ve been treated to an endless tirade from the media and politicians about how the perpetrators were physical incarnations of pure evil; that nothing other than a malicious religious ideology can explain their actions. The clear implication is that, in the eyes of the authorities, when the attacker is a Muslim it’s a case of inexplicable evil around which a racist hysteria and hatred can be built. It’s only when the attacker is a non-Muslim that a calm and rational approach to the psychology, mental state, and motivations of the perpetrator is required.
The Daily Mail, disgusting rag that it is, carried a headline on its website shortly after the attack claiming that the Finsbury Park mosque was frequented by Abu Hamza, the religious fundamentalist preacher. This was nothing less than a clear invitation for people to draw the conclusion that the victims of this attack deserved what they got; that the wider Muslim community itself should bear some responsibility for this racist act. Just imagine the outrage and absurdity if, for example, someone was to suggest that the Manchester bombing victims were somehow culpable for their own deaths.
Tommy Robinson of the racist English Defence League gladly took up the bigoted press’ invitation on social media when, shortly after the attack, he explicitly accused the Finsbury Park mosque of creating fundamentalists - despite the fact that the mosque is well known locally in recent years for its community outreach and attempts to integrate local residents of all faiths and backgrounds.
For most people, especially in an area as diverse as Finsbury Park, it will come as no surprise that this case will be treated differently from others. We’ve all witnessed Islamophobia spurred on by racist media comments and reactionary political policies. This isn’t going away anytime soon and it will affect how this latest attack is dealt with.
Horror without end
One Muslim resident near the mosque said that she is now feeling very tense, and is worried that someone might do something as retribution for this attack. This, more than anything else, really brings home the symbiotic interdependence between far-right racism and Islamic fundamentalism. Each side feeds - and feeds on - the existence of the other, and both base themselves on the despair, deprivation and division generated by the capitalist system.
Waking up this morning to this news of the fourth terror attack in four months, and just a few days after the atrocity of the Grenfell Tower fire, I was reminded of Lenin’s comment that capitalism is horror without end. Something dramatic needs to be done to change the system as a whole if we’re ever going to stop events like this.
On the one side, we must fight the racist far right. The demonisation of Muslims must stop, as must the xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred from press and politicians that encourages attacks like the one at Finsbury Park today. That means abolishing the Prevent legislation, which unfairly targets Muslims. And it means taking the media out of the hands of a billionaire elite, who use it to divide workers of different faiths and skin colours against each other. Instead, we need a press that is under the democratic control of the working class, who can work together to make sure our media delivers truthful news and information, not Tory propaganda and fake news.
On the other side is the scourge of fundamentalism and terrorism. As Jeremy Corbyn has said previously, we need to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other state sponsors of terrorism. That means kicking the Tories out of power through mass mobilisations, strike action, and a new general election to bring Corbyn’s Labour to power. And it means banning weapons exports from Britain, with the nationalisation of the arms industry to enable its vast resources to instead be used to manufacture things society actually needs.
Ultimately, we need to tackle reactionary radicalisation on both sides at its roots by eliminating the socio-economic problems that people face in the modern world. That means free education for life for everyone who wants it, affordable homes, and secure, well paid jobs for all. To achieve this, we need to be able to plan the economy, and to invest in it for need, not profit. That means nationalisation of the land, the banks, the infrastructure and the biggest businesses. In short, that means socialist revolution – a goal that can unite people of all races, genders and faiths.
Say no to racism and Islamophobia!
Fight terrorism with class unity!
End this decaying capitalist system by fighting for socialism!