Human rights and racial justice organisations across the UK and the rest of the world have been imploring their respective governments to get tough on the media and politicians. For too long people have got away with using dog-whistle politics, laced with racist and Islamophobic rhetoric to further their own populism.
Today as we count the death toll in New Zealand – we must understand in detail the links to the UK that inspired 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, to live-stream his rampage to Facebook from a head-mounted camera. The footage showed him firing indiscriminately at Muslim men, women and children from close range inside the Al-Noor mosque. His bullets holster had the words Rotherham, and on his Facebook page, he claims that he was inspired by the UK Finsbury Park Mosque terrorist Darren Osbourne. Darren Osbourne committed the atrocity after watching the Three Girls documentary aired (rightly) by the BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42886464.
Brenton Tarrant stated in his manifesto, on his Facebook page, that he wanted to get rid of invaders – the invaders and threat being all Muslims. Mark Rowley (former Counter-Terrorism Officer), said in August last year that the UK had not “woken up” to the threat posed by the far right. Rowley warned the public and politicians should not underestimate the situation, describing how National Action, a proscribed neo-Nazi organisation, has “a strategy for a terrorist group” with online information on how to create discord in communities and evade police surveillance. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/27/uk-towns-polarised-by-far-right-sara-khan-counter-extremism-commissioner
Nadeem Murtuja, Director of JUST Yorkshire stated, “I am conscious of the narrative that the far right is using to rapidly increase acceptance of their ideology and legitimise the ‘othering’ of minorities, mainly Muslims here in the UK and across the Western world. In effect, making many Muslims hostage/vulnerable in their own communities. These tactics of hijacking legitimate grievances are the easiest way to radicalise people – whilst at the same time, if challenged, these same people will use that as an opportunity to evidence that their ‘right of free speech and so-called truth’ as being compromised – that the national DNA is no longer safe. When Thomas Mair brutally murdered Jo Cox he was heard saying “This is for Britain”, “keep Britain independent”, and “Britain first” https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/23/thomas-mair-found-guilty-of-jo-cox-murder. Jo Cox represented a multicultural, diverse and significant Muslim community.
In my interview with BBC Radio 4, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b5qn1b following attacks on a mosque and a Sikh temple in Leeds only last year I raised particular concerns relating to the hijacking of legitimate grievances, such as the Child sexual exploitation agenda by the far right – Baroness Susan Williams agreed that the Government needed to do more. I’m sure there’s probably a lot happening strategically behind the scenes, but I don’t think the growth in far-right activity is abating.
The problem we face today, possibly because of social media, is that we live in a ‘politics of populism’ and that many politicians are more concerned about their status – rather than the actual public interest. For minorities, particularly Muslims the public interest can sometimes feel non-existent.
These are incredibly worrying times – I’m sure as people attended Mosque today, they had to think twice of their safety – and that is probably the most worrying sign for any Government – when the people begin to no longer feel safe. This Government needs to get a grip of Islamophobia – or at least give the people the power to hold the media and politicians to account that is more than every 5 years.
Let’s not forget the “Punish a Muslim Day” was only last year https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/punish-muslim-day-letters-points-islamophobic-hate-crime-counter-terrorism-police-bradford-a8249571.html there is a dangerous narrative in the air that is brewing toxic fumes – it crosses regions, nations and even continents – after the atrocity in New Zealand we must see right-wing extremism through the lens of a global network with a single ideology – that if not challenged now, will continue to have devastating impact on all minorities and faith groups.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families that have lost loved ones in New Zealand.
Further information is available on the JUST Yorkshire website