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Finsbury Park attack was result of hate-filled climate of Islamophobia

For Fatima Said this week’s attack on the Muslim community in Finsbury Park was shocking but not at all surprising

23 June, 2017 — By Fatima Said

Flowers left at the scene of the attack in Finsbury Park

ON Sunday night, the Muslim community in Finsbury Park fell victim to a horrific Islamophobic attack. Worshippers leaving evening prayers during the last days of the sacred month of Ramadan were mowed down by a van driver. The attack killed one person and injured many others.

While this attack was one of the most violent, it is sadly not the first to take place against the Muslim community in Finsbury Park. Just last year, a bag of rotten pork meat was thrown at Finsbury Park Mosque. The year before, a man tried to set the same mosque alight in an attempted arson attack.

As of yet, not a single person has been held to account for these attacks. These incidents are all in addition to the fivefold increase in attacks that Muslims in the local community and around Britain face today. So, while Sunday’s attack was shocking in its level of violence, it was not at all surprising to Muslims in Finsbury Park who have issued plenty of warnings about the dangerous rise of Islamophobia, warnings that feel like they have fallen on deaf ears.

This attack is a culmination of a hate-filled climate of Islamophobia, fuelled by far-right extremists and abetted by the press and the political elite who have contributed to the normalisation of hostility against Islam and Muslims.

Fatima Said

What is worse is that Muslims have often been made to feel as if Islamophobia is a figment of their imagination rather than a dangerous reality which they are subjected to on a daily basis. Visibly, Muslim women like myself bear the brunt of these Islamophobic attacks. Over the years, there has been very little done by the government to dispel our fears and ensure our safety.

Speaking to women in Finsbury Park Mosque, you get a real sense of this frustration; many have stopped reporting instances of Islamophobic abuse to the police because they feel nothing will be done about it. They say they constantly fear for the safety of their children and families.

For far too long, Muslims have been portrayed as perpetrators of terrorism, not victims of it. The Prime Minister was right to recognise acts of Islamophobia as extremism in her speech following the attack but for many in the community, this designation comes far too late.

Why did we have to wait for such a horrendous attack to take place for the government to start listening to our concerns? And why has it taken so long for far-right extremism to be identified as a serious threat?

As a British Muslim, I have a right to feel safe on the streets I call home and a right to worship freely and in peace, as does every other citizen of this country.

It is high time that the government seriously addressed the rise in Islamophobia in Britain today, as well as the failure of its counter-terrorism strategy that has only served to further alienate and demonise Muslims.

• Fatima Said is a youth volunteer at Finsbury Park Mosque and prays there regularly.

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