Metropolitan Police car. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Metropolitan Police car. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Media reports and the police response to the Islamophobic attack in Cricklewood shows that it’s only terrorism if the perpetrators are Muslim argues Shabbir Lakha

On Tuesday night, three people were injured and two of them hospitalised after a car mowed down a crowd of Muslim people outside a Mosque in Cricklewood. Eyewitnesses say the driver, who had been asked to leave the private car park, shouted Islamophobic abuse at the Mosque-goers before swerving his car into the crowd.

During the first 12 days of the Islamic month of Muharram, Shia Muslims attend nightly lectures commemorating the martyrdom of the grandson of the Holy Prophet. It is a time when most Shia Muslims in the country will be at Mosques and community centres. This attack will have an impact in spreading fear in the Muslim community.

A Metropolitan Police statement said:

This incident is not being treated as terror related but the hate crime aspect of the collision is being looked at by detectives as an aggravating factor.

It may well be that the incident was not a terrorist attack. But you only have to look back at the police response and media coverage of attacks in Westminster of a similar nature to see a glaring disparity. When news first broke of those attacks, they were immediately treated as terrorist incidents, the media immediately assumed the assailant was Muslim and began making connections with ISIS.

Even now, whenever the subject of terrorism comes up in the media, the focus is always on Islamic extremists. Repeatedly, when the terrorist attacks in 2017 are mentioned, the Islamophobic terrorist attack at Finsbury Park is left off this list.

Why is it only when Muslims are the victims that caution is applied?

At the very least, this was an Islamophobic attack. It was a violent hate crime against a minority group. Yet, if you read the first headlines relating to it in the morning, you could be forgiven for thinking a freak of nature pushed a car into people.

State of Islamophobia

This attack has taken place with a backdrop of rising Islamophobia. This is what Boris Johnson’s comments on women wearing the burka have contributed to. Senior politicians with national reach ridiculing and targeting Muslim women have only made an already demonised community more vulnerable to hate crimes and violence.

Prevent and Theresa May’s hostile environment (continued by Amber Rudd and now Sajid Javid) have not only directly impacted Muslims and ethnic minorities negatively, but they’ve fostered an environment where these communities are seen as the enemy and fair game.

Similarly, Sarah Champion claiming (against evidence) that grooming is a Muslim/Asian problem and then repeatedly standing by her comments made in the Sun newspaper, have gone a long way in solidifying this false stereotype criminalising the entire Muslim community.

These cues are then taken up by the likes of Tommy Robinson and his supporters and translate directly into violence against Muslims and ethnic minorities. At their last march in July, Robinson’s supporters stopped a bus and harassed the driver simply because she was a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman.

The far right are becoming increasingly organised and within a growing pan-European and transatlantic network, centred around its most dominant strand, the so-called counterjihad movement. Muslims are facing increasing levels of discrimination and violence, and yet the media and the bulk of politicians would have you believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the racist and the Labour Party is institutionally racist.

This is why confronting the far right, defending Jeremy Corbyn and taking on the media are all so important. It is imperative that as many people as possible are at the Unity demonstration against racism and fascism on 17th November, and that the Muslim community are very much involved in it. It’s also vital to build up alternative media that can put across the real arguments.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.