On the morning of Monday, June 19, at 00:21 am, a white van ploughed into a crowd of worshippers who had exited the Finsbury Park Mosque. 10 people were injured, eight are in hospital with several whose conditions have been described as very serious. One person was killed.
The far-right terrorist, for that, is what we must call him, was held down by members of the congregation while the police were called. The imam protected him from the anger of the crowd so that the police could do their job properly when they arrived. The man reportedly said that he’d done his job, and apparently shouted that he wanted to kill all Muslims.
This attack came just over a year after the murder of the MP Jo Cox by another far-right terrorist. Anniversaries are important for terrorists. The Manchester bombing came 4 yours after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
Last week, Grenfell Tower in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea caught fire and has resulted in the likely deaths of around 79 people. The safety concerns of the residents had been ignored. The workmanship of the refurbishment, hired out to a series of contractors, had been substandard. Now, this blackened tower stands like a tomb, reaching into the sky and berating us for the lack of thought for those at the bottom of society.
The London Bridge attack took place on June 3, and shook the capital and country, already off balance after the attack in Manchester; this was followed by the fire. Now, this. Londoners could be forgiven for feeling like society is seriously fraying at the seams. After the Manchester attacks, there were calls to carry on, as usual, to not allow the terrorists to divide us and to not let it alter our attitudes to each other or to life.
Of course, this didn’t happen, bar some much talked up events where the efforts made by the media to draw attention to their healing and harmonious nature only served to instill in the minds of many people that there are those who are endeavouring to paper over the cracks, encouraging us to dance and sing, and all the while it feels more and more like some black wave is rushing towards us, threatening to drown us, with every attack, every disaster, every instance of political upheaval.
The Finsbury Mosque attack is what happens when the great societal conversation, the dialogue between people from different walks of life, breaks down and is replaced by mistrust, fear and suspicion. The extremists from both ends of the ideological spectrum, whether it is the Islamists, the far-right ethno-nationalists, or indeed the militant far-left, thrive in this polarised environment, as more and more people are driven into their ranks seeking some kind of psychological and spiritual safety.
Al-Quds day saw a march by Hezbollah supporters and other Islamist extremists march through the centre of London. They, of course, blamed the Grenfell fire on the ‘Zionists’. The March saw the flags of Hezbollah and other terror groups flying. This is not a sign of a healthy society.
After the Grenfell fire, there was a protest against the negligence the residents felt at Kensington and Chelsea Council, the local municipal authority. A crowd of angry protesters surged into the council building and tried to make it upstairs but were stopped by police. Later, the protest took to the street, marching through central London, shouting their anger, at the government, at society, at the clear evening sky. There is evidence that many of the protestors were far-Left militants, as evidenced by the signs carried. This is where the majority of the chants for the overthrow of the democratically elected government came from.
The ‘Day of Rage’ protest planned to coincide with the Queen’s Speech this week has been infiltrated by far-Left radicals who will use the grief and anger of the residents of Grenfell and the surrounding area for their own malign political purposes: namely, toppling a government they see as illegitimate despite its having won the General Election. Even the residents have raised concern over these ideologues using their pain for their own gain.
Far-right extremism is on the rise, with the Prevent counter-radicalisation scheme seeing a sharp increase in the number of people being referred for worrying far-right behaviour. ISIS wanted to divide us as a society, to turn us into two armed camps, Muslim v non-Muslim. Last night, they succeeded. They cannot be allowed to succeed again.
Now, more than ever, it is vital that we have those ‘embarrassing’ conversations that Theresa May spoke of in her speech following the London Bridge attack. It is only through dialogue that we can diffuse the brewing tensions that people in London and across the country can feel, even if they do not wish to admit to it. It is far, far better to have combat with words, rather than combat with weapons. It is only if we speak the truth to the best of our ability that we can gain some control over the chaos that threatens to unleash itself on our society.
Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone, demonstrated that multicultural societies are lower in trust than monocultural societies. People tend to hunker down in their nests and engage with each other less. This is not an option for us, as the last few weeks have proven. We must engage, we must discuss, we must debate, we must argue, we must not let offence at people disagreeing with ideas hold us back.
The only option for our increasingly diverse society is to have an increasingly free and open debate. The alternative is to hunker down even more and allow the cracks to grow and the tension to rise.
That would be the worst thing we could do.