Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 33 n° 348

The lessons of a terrorist attack at a London mosque

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 22 giugno 2017

terrorist attackIT COULD have been London Bridge, Westminster, Berlin or Nice. A man in a van, mowing down pedestrians, spewing hate: the ritual is sadly familiar. But this time the victims were Muslims, worshippers who had been at prayer after breaking their Ramadan fast. Just after midnight on June 19th a van mounted the pavement outside the Muslim Welfare House near the Finsbury Park mosque in north London. One man, already receiving first aid after slipping over, was killed. Nine others were injured. Witnesses say the attacker leapt from the vehicle shouting “kill all Muslims” and “you deserve it” before being overpowered by onlookers.Darren Osborne, a middle-aged man from Cardiff, has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences, including murder and attempted murder. The police and government are clear in describing the attack as terrorism. Theresa May convened an emergency COBRA meeting. It is not known if the attacker had links to extremist groups or was a “lone wolf”. But his actions have turned attention back to the threat from the far right.
Prevent, part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, is often criticised for focusing unfairly on Muslims. In fact it deals with all forms of extremism. In 2015 around 15% of all referrals to Channel, a Prevent programme that offers those identified as at risk of radicalisation a mix of education, counselling and support, were related to the far right, against 70% for Islamist extremism. The proportion varies locally. In Leicestershire about a quarter are for far-right extremism and half for the Islamist sort. In South Wales and Yorkshire, it could be more like 50-50, reckons Sean Arbuthnot, a Prevent co-ordinator.The political threat from far-right extremists has never been weaker, says Vidhya Ramalingam, founder of Moonshot, an organisation that combats online violent extremism. Support for the far-right British National Party, which won more than 560,000 votes in the 2010 general election, has collapsed. In 2017 it took just 4,642. Its short-lived political success may have contributed to its downfall; activists may have chafed at the party’s attempts to become a legitimate political movement.Far-right extremists are a disparate bunch. Much activity happens online. They agree on little. Common to them all, however, is a hostility towards Muslims, even more than hatred of Jews, says Matthew Feldman of Teesside University. As the Finsbury Park attack shows, the risk of violent extremism is rising. The numbers referred to Channel are growing. Last year the government banned National Action, a group that supported Thomas Mair, the murderer of Jo Cox, a Labour MP. It was the first far-right group to be banned in Britain since the second world war.The far right’s ideology may differ sharply from that of Islamist extremists, but the process of radicalisation is almost identical, says William Baldet, a Prevent co-ordinator in Leicestershire. Those most at risk are often vulnerable, perhaps because of mental-health problems or drug misuse. A sudden event, such as a bereavement, can lead them to reach out to far-right groups whose extremist ideology they then espouse.The response is accordingly similar. Police and other agencies try to identify the underlying causes of an individual’s radicalisation before challenging the ideology. But it is hard to spot those at risk on the far right. When it comes to Islamist extremism, there are institutions, such as mosques and schools, to work through, and Muslims are often concentrated in particular areas. One way to find the far-right kind is to look for spikes in hate crime. But for some ethnic minorities, hate crime is now so common that many do not bother to report it, worries Mr Baldet.The big fear is that Finsbury Park, itself possibly a response to earlier attacks, may trigger a cycle of “tit-for-tat terrorism”. Far-right extremism and the Islamist sort are two sides of the same coin, says Mr Arbuthnot. They may be ideologically opposed but they thrive off each other. Still, some hope can be found in the response of Mohammed Mahmoud, an imam from the Muslim Welfare Centre. He and others protected the driver from an angry crowd, before handing him over to the police. (by The Economist) (photo: terrorist attack)

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