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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

Islamophobic messages online strike fear in UK's Muslims

London Muslim leader warns social media continues to be rife with hatred

The first anniversary of the Finsbury Park terror attack was marked with a service in London on June 19. EPA
The first anniversary of the Finsbury Park terror attack was marked with a service in London on June 19. EPA

Virulent anti-Muslim messages that convinced a British extremist to launch a murderous attack on worshippers in north London one year ago are still being promoted online despite government promises to tackle Islamophobia, the head of the targeted mosque said on Tuesday.

Toufik Kacimi claimed that dozens of groups were operating with impunity online, calling for war between the communities and seeking to “tear apart” multi-ethnic Britain through the spread of “racist and extremist” far-right sentiments.

His comments came as senior British officials and politicians gathered Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the death of Makram Ali, a father-of-six who was mowed down by a hired van driven by extremist Darren Osborne who had been swiftly radicalised after viewing far-right material online. Mr Ali had just left prayers at the Muslim Welfare House in north London.

Osborne is serving a jail term of at least 43 years after being convicted in February after murdering Mr Ali and injuring a dozen other people.

The attack was one of a number of high-profile terrorist attacks last year , most of them carried out by Islamist extremists at prominent locations in London and Manchester.

Mr Kacimi, the chief executive of the mosque and charity, said that he had installed some 30 security cameras and other security measures because of fears of further attacks.

“There are literally dozens of groups spreading their poisonous messages online without any problem,” he told The National. “They are calling for war and hate between communities seeking to tear us apart. Realistically, things will probably only get worse.

“I am sick and tired of seeing videos where Muslims are abused or mocked for what they wear. This actually encourages some people and hate only encourages hate.”

Mr Kacimi, who fled the Algerian civil war 20 years ago, said that ISIS and the far right were “two sides of the same coin and should never be given a platform”.

“Far-right supporters have become more and more extreme,” he said. “They are gaining ground often through certain media outlets who give them a platform to spread their hate.”

He identified YouTube and Twitter in particular as outlets where racist messages were being disseminated.

Mr Kacimi conceded that the government had tried to clamp down on Islamophobia, but says that they had not done enough.

“One of the beauties of living in the UK is the freedom of expression,” he said. “But at some point, a line has been crossed and the government needs to prevent this. If freedom of expression causes hatred, damages or radicalisation, it has to stop.”

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Read more:

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UK's Conservatives clamp down on Islamophobia

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Abdul Ahad: The Geordie Imam battling extremism

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Last month, the government announced it was preparing new laws to make online media safer following a survey that found six in 10 said they had witnessed inappropriate or harmful content online.

“Terrorists are abusing these platforms to recruit people and incite atrocities. We need to protect our communities from these heinous crimes and vile propaganda,” said Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack on Mr Ali as an “attack on us all” in a message before a minute’s silence in his memory in north London.

“As with all acts of terrorism the intention was to divide us, but we will not let this happen,” she said. “As we remember the victims of this attack, Makram Ali who tragically lost his life, we should take strength that it is London's diversity and multitude of communities that makes it one of the world's great cities."

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, told the gathering, that included Mr Ali’s family, that “terrorism is terrorism, no matter the target and regardless of what motives the sick and twisted perpetrators who carry out these evil crimes.”