An article in the New Statesman discusses how far-right groups in Britain, most prominently the English Defence League (EDL) and its founder Tommy Robinson, have been promoting hate and violence towards Muslims in the wake of the 2017 Islamist terrorist attacks in the UK[1]. This promotion of hate came at the same time the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was announcing “enough is enough” with regards to terrorism in the UK[2].

The scope of these messages of hate has been widened through the use of social media[3]. It has also been reportedly exacerbated by the contemporary tendency to ill-consider facts and give a microphone to whoever shouts the loudest. This has resulted in those on the far-right moving into the mainstream, their views often appearing in the British tabloids[4]. In response, social media companies and the authorities must understand the extreme danger these groups’ content pose to society[5].

One of those who took an interest in the EDL’s content, Darren Osborne, killed a man outside the Finsbury Park mosque having driven a van onto the pavement into a crowd of worshippers “with the intent of murderously avenging Islamic extremism”, before expressing his wish to be martyred[6]. He had reportedly wanted to kill the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, but had been unable to get to them[7].

In what is perhaps an example of the New Statesman’s criticism of how right-wing rhetoric has been allowed to creep into the mainstream, Tommy Robinson was invited onto the BBC current affairs programme, Newsnight, on the same day Darren Osborne was found guilty of murder for his actions, to respond to allegations that Osborne was radicalised by Robinson’s material and that the two had direct social media contact with each other[8]. Robinson is suing the Crown Prosecution Service for claiming that this direct social media contact took place[9].

Newsnight was criticised on social media for allowing the further promotion of Robinson’s hateful views and “popularising” his views[10]. It has been repeatedly pointed out on social media that this is part of a larger trend of the mainstream media contributing to hateful rhetoric by giving a voice to hate preachers[11].

The BBC has also been criticised after the head of Scotland Yard’s counter terrorism command said that the BBC drama, ‘Three Girls’, which told the story of the Rochdale sex-abuse scandal, was the first step in Osborne’s radicalisation[12].

In response to the sentencing of Darren Osborne, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body, said it was “Time to Take Islamophobia Seriously”, stating that Osborne’s actions were only one manifestation of a dangerous movement of Islamophobia in the UK[13]. It also acknowledged the role of the mainstream media in popularising this movement and commended politicians for showing solidarity with the Muslim community in the wake of the attack, with the secretary general of the council commenting, “I hope that the leadership and powerful words from our government now translate into transformative action to tackle the growth in hate crime against Muslims”[14].

[1] Collins, 2018.

[2] Collins, 2018.

[3] Collins, 2018.

[4] Collins, 2018.

[5] Collins, 2018.

[6] Collins, 2018.

[7] Collins, 2018.

[8] Collins, 2018; RT, 2018; BBC, 2018.

[9] RT, 2018.

[10] RT, 2018; Shafi, 2018 cited in RT, 2018.

[11] RT, 2018.

[12] RT, 2018; see also Judiciary of England and Wales, 2018, 2.

[13] Muslim Council of Britain, 2018.

[14] Muslim Council of Britain, 2018.

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Sources

BBC. (2018) ‘Newsnight’. [online] https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09qjj49/newsnight-01022018. 1 February. [Accessed 8 February 2018].

Collins, M. (2018) ‘Darren Osborne was radicalised in a society that’s comfortable with hate’. [online] 2 February. https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/02/darren-osborne-was-radicalised-society-s-become-comfortable-hate. [Accessed 8 February 2018].

Judiciary of England and Wales. (2018) ‘Woolwich Crown Court: R v DARREN OSBORNE: 02 February 2018: Sentencing Remarks’. [online] https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/r-v-osborne-sentencing-remarks.pdf. [Accessed 8 February 2018].

Muslim Council of Britain. (2018) ‘Darren Osborne Terrorism Verdict: Time to Take Islamophobia Seriously’. [online] http://www.mcb.org.uk/darren-osborne-terrorism-verdict-time-to-take-islamophobia-seriously/. [Accessed 8 February 2018].

RT. (2018) ‘BBC savaged for Tommy Robinson interview following Finsbury Park terrorist conviction’. [online] 3 February. https://www.rt.com/uk/417700-bbc-tommy-robinson-osborne/. [Accessed 8 February 2018].