It’s taken a van plowing through a crowd of Muslim worshippers for us to recognise white-national extremism as a form of terror. In this particular case – there could be no denying it; the method of attack was just too similar to London Bridge and Westminster.
But despite the blatant nature and motive of this attack, we fail to acknowledge the epidemic of white-national extremism that is creating hundreds of “lone-wolf perpetrators” across the country every day.
Most recent publicly available hate crime statistics suggest that around 200 hate crimes are reported to the police everyday in England and Wales. That’s 200 perpetrators every day that have committed an act of hate.
And these acts are not trivial. Less than a month ago a pregnant Muslim women was kicked in the stomach causing the miscarriage of her baby. At least three fires have been started at mosques in the last two months. And let’s not forget teen-refugee Reker Ahmed who was almost killed by a mob in Croydon. “Lesser attacks” – such as ripping off women’s hijabs, threatening physical assault, vandalism, and verbal abuse – are taking place as standard at a horrifying frequency.
The consistent attacks made by white-national extremists are different to those made by IS. ISIS’ attacks burst forth into our lives and discourse in an acute fashion – for most of us the propaganda and culture surrounding ISIS recruitment is not something we see at all. Indeed, we can count the number of IS perpetrators that have succeeded to carry out an attack in the last year on our fingers and toes.
By contrast, white national extremism is a chronic, constantly visible, and increasingly endemic problem. We would need 7300 people’s fingers and toes to count the number of perpetrators of hate crime this year. Granted, we do not know how many of those perpetrators subscribe to a white-national-extremist ideology, but even if it was only half that’s still an incredible 3650 individual perpetrators a year. The recruitment of individuals into white-national extremist ideology is far, far, more widespread than radicalisation by IS.
And this radicalisation is normalised.
Headlines in the Daily Mail such as the “and then they came for our children” front-pager after the Manchester arena attack are akin to the “Western infidels slay innocent women and children” headlines found in ISIS propaganda. Tabloids like the Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Express are propaganda machines for white-national extremism.
We continue to tolerate racist beliefs and give platform to white-nationalists. Tommy Robinson of the EDL is alive and kicking, touring the UK spouting his hate; and Paul Nuttall was able to blame Islam for IS terrorism on prime time TV during the election debates. White-national extremists are given a far greater platform than we would ever allow radical Islamic extremists. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an extreme-Islamic commentator on the news, or quoted in a media story. Why isn’t the same true for the far-right?
Even our Prime Minister is spouting rhetoric that empowers white-national extremists – her very campaign slogan: “strong, stable leadership in the national interest” speaks directly to that. May’s recent speeches have demonised immigrants and blamed Muslim communities for “tolerating” Islamic extremism. Conversely, she didn’t make a single comment about the reprisal hate crimes that followed the London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks.
In some ways, we should be angrier about the attack at Finsbury Park than any of the other terrorist incidents this year. Why? Because this attack was so much more preventable. It was well within our power to stop this attack. We, as the UK, have direct control over every mechanism of radicalisation that creates white-national extremists like the Finsbury Park van driver. Every part of this chain of radicalisation is occurring on UK soil, and in our public domain. We have the right to be angry, because these truly are “home-grown” terrorists.
The government fails to get its act together – its action plan to tackle hate crime is a plan in name only. It does nothing to counteract the extreme ideology underlying these acts of hate, instead treating hate crime as a problem of “law and order” committed by an “exceptional thuggish few”.
The lack of freely available statistics on hate crime is also telling. Where police stats on other crimes of interest are released on a quarterly basis, hate crime stats are only released annually by the Home Office – the most recent figures released in March 2016. The National Police Chief’s Council began publishing hate crime stats in the weeks following the referendum, but this was stopped at the end of August 2016. Data on hate crime is collected but not shared with the public. This speaks volumes to the government’s priorities.
There can now be no excuse, and no delay, in laying out a clear plan to tackle far-right extremism. We need to conduct a formal investigation into the mechanisms of radicalisation, regulate hate speech in our national press, and stop giving platform to white-national extremists. This is how we do right by the ethnic minority communities in the UK. This is how we ensure justice for the victims of Finsbury Park.
By Karissa Singh, Founder of Post Ref Racism