Where does the Finsbury Park attack leave us in the fight against extremism?

21 Jun 2017

The Finsbury Mosque attack brings us to four despicable terrorist attacks against civilians, for which the killing was indiscriminate and cowardly. The most recent terrorist will almost certainly attempt to justify his actions as retaliatory, and whilst we must all condemn and reject any such attempts, there is a lesson we must learn from this, or simply accept that as a society we will be continuously plagued with terrorism.


The way in which Islamic extremism has been addressed ranges from stupidity to nonexistence. Despite all his promises to "root out extremism", Mayor Sadiq Khan has done nothing. Combine that with the refusal of the faces of liberalism in this country to discuss the dangers of religious fundamentalism or even name it for fear of sounding racist, and you have a society whose leaders seem unwilling to do anything to defend it against extremism, and a population who, crucially, are unable to distinguish between dangerous extremists and peaceful countrymen because our leaders are unwilling to do so. This happens because if there is not a cohesive effort to name and shame Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and jihadism then society is deprived of the lexicon and ability to distinguish the elements of Islam which must be stopped and peaceful Muslims who bear no responsibility for the violence of the aforementioned.


Combine that with the reality of Hezbollah Flags being flown in London on supposedly legitimate demonstrations by Muslim organisations masquerading as charities (Islamic Human Rights Commission- has charitable status, is openly Khomenist and flies the flags of Hezbollah) and you paint a picture of a society that is under attack from a sect of Islam, that the public aren't guided by their leaders to distinguish from the non-radical majority therein, that the leaders aren't doing anything about, that appear to be so prevalent and untouchable that they are allowed to parade their violent anti-west, anti-liberal and anti-human rights flags (Hezbollah's flag feature a gun and a knife alongside Islamic scripture and images).


Create such a society that appears to be under threat from an identifiable group within, whose leaders won’t do anything about it, and whose public must find it difficult to distinguish between the genuinely threatening elements of that group and the peaceful ones, and you get the perfect circumstances for someone to foolishly make the paranoid judgement that he must take it upon himself to attack random elements of that sub-group indiscriminately. 


The first and most simple step must surely be to name and shame fundamentalist Islam and thereby distinguish its practitioners from peaceful Muslims. The second must be see a real statement of intent by our leaders acting productively, acting in a measured and planned way, but most importantly by acting. Action may happen by blocking Saudi funding of mosques in order to stem the bankrolling of dangerous Wahhabism, it may happen by creating the legal framework to refuse re-entry to those who are known to have left the country to be trained by ISIS or other such entities, or it may happen by deporting those who have already done so and returned, statelessness be damned- but it must happen, else we will continue to see depraved members of the public, perhaps already harbouring small minded and despicable racist inclinations, become terrorists in a deluded attempt to retaliate by harming those who have no complicity in any terrorism.


I have long been of the opinion that if good and decent liberal humanists don’t take on the responsibility of discussing and addressing these issues, then society risks allowing ownership of the discourse to fall into the hands of people who either won’t or don’t want to distinguish between those who are at fault and those who are innocent. One of my greatest concerns is that by including the “Islamic” part of Islamic extremism (indeed, one of my close friends disagrees vehemently with me here and insists that it would be safer and fairer to just call them “ignorant”), I run the risk of cultivating a general Islamophobia in the minds of those without the time or inclination to absorb the nuance of my assertions. Despite this, and despite a deep conviction that the majority of Muslims desire to and do actually live peacefully and contribute to and enrich our society, I do not believe it is intellectually honest or philosophically possible to separate the “Islam” from the concept of Islamic extremism.


Perhaps the most important fight for us is to hold our values sacrosanct. When someone attacks a section of our society and kills indiscriminately, it is an attack on our liberalism, and the love and humanism that constitutes it. We must be certain that whilst we act, and act with conviction and strength, we must not do the terrorists’ jobs for them and sacrifice our liberalism by lashing out at those who have not wronged us and do not desire to. The discussion must not be allowed to move onto how cruel we can be to those who have not wronged us. The most moving scene in the tragedies of the past weeks for me has been the crowd bursting into singing “Don’t Look Back In Anger” at the main vigil after the Manchester bombing, and such displays must be the most disheartening displays of our ideological fortitude and vigour to those who would seek to attack it.


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