London didn’t need more horrible news. With the last terrorist attack just weeks before, the Grenfell Tower fire last week was a horrific reality check about the cost of austerity and wealth inequality in the UK. Some of the most expensive homes in London sit in the shadows of the tower, where low-income families were burned alive in their flats. The details emerging all reinforce the role that inequality and austerity had in the tragedy — the more flammable cladding was just two pounds cheaper per square meter, the worries and complaints by residents that were repeatedly ignored and treated with disdain.
And today we woke up to another horror. A terrorist drove a white van into worshipers outside a Finsbury Park mosque, killing one and injuring more. This attack has highlighted another inequality, another injustice— the differences in the way that the media handles a white terrorist.
Much of the initial anger came when the attack was originally being reported as an ‘incident’ or a ‘major incident’, rather than a terrorist attack. It’s easy to see where the frustrations came from. Someone drove into the pavement outside of a mosque. They did it as prayers were letting out. They did it turning Ramadan. There is no doubt this was done deliberately. It was done to provoke terror and to inflict violence on the Muslim community.
Now, there is often a delay before branding an attack as ‘terrorist’. And that delay, in part, is a good one. Terrorism triggers certain procedures outside of the normal criminal justice system and you want to be sure you’re only using it in actual cases of terrorism. You may need to decide if this was a drunk driver, for instance, or just an accident. But reports were coming in that the man was shouting that he wanted to hurt Muslims. Imam Mohammed Mahmoud made sure that no one hurt the terrorist while he was restrained by the crowds until the police arrived. The police arrived and arrested him. They had him in custody. There was a living, breathing, hateful terrorist in their hands— how long could it have taken to confirm what his motives were?
A Terrorist Is A Terrorist
I just don't understand why the clean-shaven white male community didn't alert the authorities? https://t.co/M7aoKXOucI
— Ian Sinkins (@iansinkins) June 19, 2017
But the problem goes beyond that. Eventually, it was confirmed and labelled as a terrorist attack. But still this terrorist— who murdered a man and injured at least ten other innocent bystanders— was described by The Daily Mail as “clean-shaven white man”. A clean-shaven white man. We didn’t need a description— he wasn’t on the loose. We needed the media to stand up and call him what he was. A terrorist. And yes, now they are. But the handling of the entire attack has shown an unequal double standard.
There have been no rightwing cries for the clean-shaven white man community to step out and condemn this crime. No wondering why white people didn’t do more to stop it. This is terrorism. But it’s being treated differently because the terrorist is white and the victims are Muslim. But he is no less guilty and they are no less innocent than in every other terrorist attack.
We can’t ignore the inequality. The inequality of wealth and the inequality of treatment between different religions, races, and classes. The deeper the inequality, the deeper the divide in our society and in our city. And this is a time we need to band together— because this inequality comes with far too high a price.