London Mosque attack: Did Trump’s Tweets embolden Bigots?

by Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

A man driving a white van swerved just after midnight early Monday morning into a crowd of Muslims coming out of Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, severely injuring British Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain called it a “violent manifestation of Islamophobia.” The organization asked for more security for British mosques.

As of this writing, one man was dead and 10 others wounded.

One eyewitness told the Telegraph, “We are shocked when we heard the news because we were just having a good time. We were praying for peace and for Grenfell Tower.”

It is the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and worshipers often go to mosque late in the evening to pray extra, supererogatory prayers.

An eyewitness interviewed in Arabic on Al Jazeera said that the man was “white,” was cursing the Muslims and spoke with a working class accent.

He was also careful to say that Finsbury Park is an ethnically mixed area with good relations among the races and that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin lives near the mosque and has made friendly visits to it. (I lived there one summer myself and remember the ethnic kaleidoscope).

Another interviewee, for the BBC, said that the man was shouting “I want to kill all Muslims!”

Finsbury Park Mosque Attack: “We held him (attacker) to the ground” – BBC News

Locals wrestled him to the ground and held him until the police came (some half an hour to forty minutes later). One said he asked them to kill him.

The attack seems pretty surely a response to the attack at the London Bridge by three ISIL militants

Finsbury Park Mosque: Man dies as van hits mosque crowd – BBC News

Unlike the London Bridge atrocity, this act of white terrorism will not be given the wall-to-wall coverage treatment on cable news.

Whoever the murderous bigot is that carried out this cold-blooded murder has fallen for ISIL’s (ISIS, Daesh) strategy, which is to polarize people of Christian and Muslim heritage and create hatred and insecurity between them. ISIL, which is rapidly losing its territory in Iraq and Syria, hopes to come west and embed itself in European and American Muslim communities. The problem for Muslim extremism is that very, very few Western Muslims are interested in extremism. Almost all of them appreciate the benefits of Western democracy and ways of life.

So ISIL does not have much hope of recruiting more than a handful of marginal personalities– petty thieves and losers. (For some reason it also only has any success in getting a few troubled young men of the second immigrant generation to join up. First generation and third generation immigrants are not interested. Apparently being in between worlds is alienating).

So what ISIL wants to do instead is to recruit white people of Christian heritage to beat up Muslims and terrify them and make them insecure. And then ISIL thinks its recruiters can show up in Muslim communities and promise people protection and security. This modus operandi was typical of how they took over so much of Sunni Iraq. They had been hitting Shiites with terrorist attacks and provoking Shiites to lash out at Sunnis.

Britain, a country of 65 million, has some 3 million Muslims, and it would be a very, very bad mistake to fall into ISIL’s trap.

ISIL and other extremists want us to be afraid. The only proper response is to refuse to be afraid.

ISIL and other extremists want us to hate. The only proper response is instead to love.

ISIL and other extremists want us to lash out violently. The only proper response is nonviolence.

When ISIL attacks, people of Christian and Jewish heritage should find a Muslim and be spontaneously nice to them.

Studies show that Muslims in the West who attend mosque are much less likely ever to become radicals. Attacking mosque congregations is an attempt to undo that good work.

So we come to the question in my headline. Donald J. Trump is one of the chief dupes of ISIL strategy, and his election as president last November gave him a very loud megaphone with which to broadcast hate and polarization. He is aided in this by the worst person in the world, alt-Neo-Nazi Steve Bannon, the chief White House strategist, who is working toward Catholic-Muslim polarization of a sort some fear could lead to blood in the streets.

During his campaign, Trump whipped up irrational hatred of Muslims, which some call Islamophobia. He said “I think Islam hates us.” He announced that he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

After the London Bridge attack at the beginning of June, Trump tweeted that it vindicated his Muslim ban. It did no such thing, since you can’t blame all the Muslims in 6 countries for crimes committed by one or two people from that country. Besides, many acts of terrorism are committed by citizens, as was true of the one today.

Then Trump accused London mayor Sadiq Khan of playing down the seriousness of the attacks, as a person of Muslim heritage. The mayor in fact had simply said that there would be extra police on the streets of London and that the public should not be alarmed by their presence. Trump twisted his words to imply he wasn’t taking the attack seriously.

Trump has admirers in the fringe British Islamophobic groups, including in UKIP, and his demonization of all Muslims for the acts of a few has emboldened militant bigots on both sides of the Atlantic.

Trump and Bannon are not savvy, strong Western politicians bravely standing up to the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism.” They are behaving precisely as the radicals want. They are dupes.

And they are making other people dupes.

This polarization strategy, and the people that fall for it, leads to catastrophe, as we saw with ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

Don’t go down that path.

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10 Responses

  1. Yes, I think Trump’s rhetoric promotes this type of behavior. Why then did he not TWEET about this, is it because it was an attack on Muslim. Trump is quick to jump to tweeter denouncing Muslims but keeps his silence when Muslims are attacked. This behavior clearly shows some hidden agenda and has nothing to do with SAFETY.

  2. Ask the parents of Nabra Hassanen, 17 who was clubbed to death with an aluminum bat and dumped in a pond.

    link to washingtonpost.com

    Driven by Trumpian rhetoric “Build a wall, hate Muslims!” a POISON POTUS tacitly encourages his followers to ooze their individual poisons.

    • Further – The memorial erected for Nabra Hassanen, the 17-year-old Muslim girl who was murdered earlier this week, was set on fire Wednesday morning.

      Thank you, President of HATE Donald Trump your STUPIDITY has unintended equally stupid angry WHITE consequences.

      This girl was a threat to no one.

  3. Seems to me there is a ocean seperating Trump’s mentality from the UK. Their politicians are all solid behind calling this incident out as terrorism, presumably reflecting the people’s feelings in general, which were also such as to get Trump to cancel a planned visit.

    This might also say something else: either about how our two systems of political representation differ, or about how the perspective of the two peoples differ. Scarey.)

  4. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this attack. I also can’t help but wonder is it just the Trump tweets that make individuals seek reprisal attacks against Muslims or people that appear Muslim. I think Trump’s rhetoric and tweets have played a huge role in making some individuals assault Muslims. A seventeen year old girl was killed in Sterling, Virginia in what is likely to be a hate-crime.

    Apparently, the perpetrator of the Finsbury Mosque attack was a father of four. I wonder what will this mean to the family that this man was from: they will have lost someone who brings some income home at least for some time.

    When Trump demonizes Muslims, I don’t think he realizes that his words actually carries weight. The result is that he maligns an entire set of 1.1 billion or so people as sub-human and therefore not worthy of the same set of human rights as everyone else.

    I agree that the way forward is through nonviolence and compassion. We (United States) should also re-examine the amount of weapons and armaments that we sell to countries: particularly those that commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, or funnel these arms to extremist groups. Unhinged extremists can only do so much damage to the world if they do not have access to weapons and armaments. Unfortunately, when they do have access to weapons, the result is mass-shootings and carnage.

  5. I think “dupe” is too generous a term since it implies innocence and even if Trump knows his tweets/words are inciting violence I doubt he cares. Face it: violence by or against Muslims is good for bolstering Trump’s political power. I think ISIL’s “useful idiot” is a more accurate description. Trump and ISIL need each other.

  6. Please note that it wasn’t Finsbury Park Mosque but the nearby “Muslim Welfare House”. I’m pointing this out as bigots will delight in claiming it was the “Captain Hook” mosque getting it’s just desserts. The infamous “Captain Hook” used Finsbury Park Mosque as his “base” for several years. The mainly Bangladeshi community had struggled for over a decade to raise funds and get Finsbury Park Mosque built. I know this as I rented from one of their committee members in the ’80s’ . This loudmouthed thug wrenched control of it, and the tabloids feasted on the spectacle for several years, ignoring the back story, causing extreme consternation among British Muslims. He was never out of the headlines. Apparently he brought the congregation down to about 50. It’s an understandable mistake – I just thought this needed clarifying.

  7. Juan, thank you for your analysis.

    I just needed to alert you to possible bias, in the seemingly innocent idea, that people of other faiths and cultures “appreciate the benefits of Western democracy and ways of life”.

    Democracy surely isn’t Western, and the way of life in the US in particular has historically been spared the pain of global conflict on its soil, for complex reasons – it has however engaged in war on the original inhabitants, and a civil war.

    The economic advancement of the US also relates to complex historical factors, a major pillar of which was the enslavement of Africans.

    So yes, it is relatively comfortable in many aspects, but “Western democracy” is a dangerously loaded idea.

    Yours sincerely

    • First of all, I lived many years in less developed economies, and people who come to the West from them are delighted to have escaped from squalor and crime. There is a fairly well established correlation, moreover, although it is not absolute, between higher-income societies and the ability to keep democracy going. People living in the areas where I spent much of my life do not have democracy or any prospect of it. The point I was making is that 99.9999% of immigrants do not want to undermine the very things for which they undertook the wrenching journey from their less fortunate homelands to achieve. It is not relevant, by the way, where democracy developed or how, only where it is now being practiced, however imperfectly. And to tell you the truth, rule of law and application of the law equally to all citizens is just as important. 19th century Middle Eastern reformers were astonished at the idea and immediately saw it as the key to a better system. Not everything is the same everywhere.

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