The Finsbury Park attack showed us the worst of Britain, but how we responded showed us the very best

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Editorial by Shaukat Warraich

Faith Associates, CEO.

Taken from the editorial in the Metro:

2017 was a horror year for Britain. Four disgusting acts of terrorism ripped through communities across our country, culminating in a far-right extremist driving a van at Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park. The tragedies of previous months had already rocked Britons – and it had happened again.

The Finsbury Park attack, like the other terrorist incidents that year, showed the worst of humanity: divided, hateful, cowardly. From Westminster to Finsbury Park, our country’s resolve was tested time and time again. I’m proud of how we came through.

We could have buckled under the pressure. We could have let the terrorrists win. But we didn’t. The horrors galvanised our communities into action, and we are stronger and more united as a result. The terrorists failed.

I firmly believe that terrorists have no religion – they only have their own agendas, and distort faith to further those twisted agendas. As a Muslim, I’m well aware of the awful things done illegitimately in the name of Islam. But it’s vital that we don’t blame whole communities on the actions of a few. Instead, we need to embrace our core British values of tolerance and openness; working together to find solutions.

In the past, the far-right threat has often been overlooked. Even my organisations, Faith Associates and Imams Online, underestimated the scale and immediacy of the threat from the far-right – not just to Muslim and minority communities, but anyone who stands up to the far-right’s message of hate.

Sickening ‘Punish A Muslim Day’ letters were sent to Muslims across the UK, including to our current Home Secretary. Reported Islamophobia has been increasing year on year, with hate crimes against Mosques more than doubling in 2017. And almost exactly a year before the Finsbury Park attack, we mourned the brutal murder of Jo Cox.

The Government has acknowledged the threat, and steps are being taken to address it. Last year, far-right referrals to the Home Office’s Prevent Programme increased, faster than any other type of extremism. Authorities and social media companies are increasingly working with organisations like Faith Associates to understand the issues facing Britain’s diverse communities, and taking steps to tackle them.

It’s positive that, over the past two years, Mosque security has been treated with the seriousness it needs. But we need to be realistic and accept that the responsibility can’t just be on the Government. We need to take a collaborative approach where Government, tech giants, civil society and communities tackle hate wherever it rears its ugly head.


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