Finsbury Park: UK's anti-terror 'Prevent' strategy should focus on far-right white terrorism, government told

'What I’m calling for and what I expect the general public to be calling for is justice, equality, fairness, as to how these crimes are treated'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Government has been urged to focus its counter-terror Prevent programme on far-right extremism after a van ploughed into worshippers leaving evening prayers at a mosque in Finsbury Park. 

One man was killed and eight people were taken to hospital after the suspected terror attack outside Muslim Welfare House shortly after 12:20am on Monday. 

Ibn Omar, who has been attending the mosque since he was a child, said the Muslim community was “constantly stereotyped” and was angered that the crime “wasn’t being treated the same” as the recent terror attacks in London Bridge and Manchester. 

“The police have got Prevent for Islamic extremism but for far-right extremism which is rapidly growing... if this was on the flip side, there would have been uproar,” he told Sky News. 

“Fortunately the event wasn't right outside the mosque, it’s very sad the way the Government reports these crimes as the way the Government treats these crimes is different to Muslims that commit crimes or ethnic minorities. 

“What I’m calling for and what I expect the general public to be calling for is justice, equality, fairness, as to how these crimes are treated - and the rise in Islamophobia and far-right extremism.”

Prevent is one of the four elements that make up CONTEST, the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy that aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

A report released in February found the threat from far-right terrorists was being neglected by European governments and law enforcement, and revealed one in three "lone actors" had been motivated by far-right ideologies. 

Dr Chris Allen resigned from Prevent in 2014 over concerns how the programme was being run. He said he doesn't believe the Government has worked hard enough to tackle Islamophobia. 

"We’ve seen the far right in the UK become much more aggressive, much more confrontational, particularly focusing their aggression towards Muslim communities, targeting things like the building of new mosques," he told BBC World at One. 

"Islamophobia is not the same as extremism. Islamophobia is more akin to racism or homophobia or disableism. And the other thing is Islamophobia is not only causal of extremism as well and from research we know that hate crime is largely perpetrated by ordinary people.

"The everyday experience of Islamophobia for Muslims is at street level, physical or verbal abuse or violence and actually that is perpetrated by ordinary people, not necessarily extremists."

The van driver, described by eyewitnesses as a large white man, was detained by members of the public after the mosque’s imam stepped in to urge angry members of the public to wait for the authorities.

Police said they had arrested a 48-year-old man in relation to the incident but did not release any further details. 

Muslim Welfare House’s chief executive Toufik Kacimi said the incident should be treated as a hate crime. 

“We have a witness saying the driver of the van said: ‘I did my bit’,” he said.

“He hit almost a wall, at the end of the road, because it was a dead end road, so people grabbed him outside and started hitting him, but our imam outside went and saved him, he saved his life basically.”