Xenophobic far-right leaders like Tommy Robinson are radicalising scores of British youth, and the media in the UK is more than happy to provide him with a platform to do so.
“Not a terrorist until proven Muslim” has become a social media hashtag cause in its own right, and serves to illuminate how the media and political class applies a patently double standard to the way it reports acts of politically or racially motivated violence, with the label “terrorist” reserved almost exclusively to Muslims.
Likewise, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that racist whites can incite violence and extremism in a way that Muslims are not, as evidenced by the manner in which British authorities and the media have treated the cartoonish Islamic extremist Anjem Choudary compared with the equally clownish anti-Muslim hate preacher Stephen Yaxley- Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).
Despite their respective absurdities and shameless attention seeking, however, both Choudary and Robinson have and continue to radicalise broken young men into carrying out acts of violent extremism and terrorism, but whereas the former went to prison for his dangerous and inexcusable rhetoric, the latter is feted as the legitimate voice of the political far right.
When the judge sentenced Choudary and his accomplice Mohammed Rahman to 5 and half years in prison in 2016 for inciting terrorism, he said, “I regard each of you as dangerous. You show no remorse at all for anything you have said or done and I have no doubt you will continue to communicate your message whenever you can,” adding, “The jury were sure that you knowingly crossed the line between the legitimate expression of your own views and the criminal act of inviting support for an organisation which was at the time engaged in appalling acts of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Robinson, the founder of the English Defense League, an anti-Muslim street gang that mobilises violent flash demonstrations, vandalizes mosques, and openly threatens Muslims in public places, continues to be feted by publications and pundits on the right, with Stephen Bannon, US President Donald Trump’s former chief-of-staff, describing him as the “backbone” of the United Kingdom.
Think about that for a moment. The man who orchestrated Trump’s winning presidential campaign lauded a man whose racist hate group is linked to Anders Breivik, the guy who slaughtered 77 Norwegian students to violently protest against what he described as the “Islamisation” of Europe, a conspiratorial theme championed loudly by Robinson.
If Choudary inspired some to take up arms against non-Muslims in the West, then a similar claim can also be made against Robinson, who has directly motivated or been the dominant source of inspiration for many who have carried out acts of terrorism against Muslims.
When 48-year-old Darren Osborne drove his van into a group of Muslim worshipers outside Finsbury Park Mosque in London, killing one and injuring a dozen others, jurors to his trial heard that it took a month of digesting Robinson’s social media posts and videos for him to become “obsessed” with Muslims.
“Osborne had grown to hate Muslims largely due to his consumption of large amounts of online far-right material, including, as evidenced in court, statements from EDL leader Tommy Robinson, Britain First, and other,” said Mark Rowley, the outgoing Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Worse – Robinson excused Osborne’s act of terrorism by blaming the mosque for “creating terrorists and radical jihadists and promoting hate and segregation,” essentially defending it as a “revenge attack.”
On Monday, a video showing the beating and torture of a 16-year-old Syrian refugee at a high school in the UK went viral, with his attacker dragging him to the ground by the neck, despite his already broken arm wrapped in a cast. The bully also mockingly waterboarded the Syrian boy.
A glance of the alleged attacker’s Facebook account reads like an online shrine to Robinson and groups associated with the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant far right, including Robinson’s English Defense League.
On Wednesday, Robinson took to Facebook to seemingly excuse the youth who viciously attacked the Syrian refugee child by citing unsubstantiated claims of “English children being bullied out of Almondbury School by Muslim gangs,” while also falsely claiming the victim had attacked a girl at the same school.
One can only imagine the media freak-out and hysteria were a Muslim to excuse those who carried out the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing in London.
For Robinson, however, it’s business as usual, with his brand of inciting violence and terrorism again being completely ignored by both authorities and political elites.
In fact, instead of condemning Robinson for inciting terrorism, the media provides him a platform to demonise Islam even after one of his loyal devotees has carried out a terrorist attack against Muslims, like the way ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ program invited him on as a guest the day after Osborne rammed his van into a dozen Muslims, allowing him to falsely claim the Quran justifies terrorism, even though Osborne had been inspired by Robinson’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Later, when Osborne was found guilty, Robinson appeared on BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ program, and as Richard Seymour observed, “Asking no difficult questions – grotesquely in the circumstances – they handed Robinson a platform to play the martyr.”
We already know the role social media platforms play in radicalising and mobilising terrorists, but it would appear authorities are fixated exclusively on those who incite “Islamist” terrorist attacks, while completely ignoring those who incite others into violent extremism on the far right. This should be alarming given hate crime against Muslims in the UK has soared 40 percent in the past year, and despite the fact the Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, recently warned the increasingly organised nature of far-right movements, describing them as a “significant part of the terrorist threat.”
But until now, however, only Muslims are targeted for inciting terrorism, not racist hate preachers like Robinson, but if the UK wants to get serious about ending violent extremism, it can no longer afford to fixate on the former while ignoring the latter.
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