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Finsbury Park terror attack violent manifestation of rampant far-right Islamophobia

23rd Feb 2018
Finsbury Park terror attack violent manifestation of rampant far-right Islamophobia

Darren Osborne has been found guilty of carrying out the Finsbury Park terror attack
(Photo: Met Police)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Muslim leaders and anti-hate groups have called for a review of the national security threat posed by far-right extremist groups following the conviction of a Cardiff man who carried out an attack in Finsbury Park, London, which killed one man and left several others with life-changing injuries.

Darren Osborne, who was “brainwashed” within a month by anti-Muslim propaganda, was found guilty of a terrorist attack on worshippers leaving a mosque on June 19, 2017, triggering a complete review of the national security threat posed by the extreme right.

Osborne, 48, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Makram Ali, 51, and the attempted murder of several others, following a nine-day trial at the Woolwich Crown Court.

Speaking outside the court, Ali’s daughter, Ruzina Akhtar, said: “The last few months have been very hard for our family as we have tried to adjust to life without our father. It was particularly hard for us to have to sit in court and listen to Darren Osborne deny he had done anything wrong. So we are very pleased with the guilty verdict.”

Adding, “Our father, like the victims of most terrorism, was entirely innocent which makes his death in this violent way all the more hurtful and we cannot imagine the trauma he felt in the last few minutes.”

During the trial, Osborne also admitted to plotting to kill Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

The presiding judge Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb told the court that Osborne’s actions were a terrorist act, as defined by Section 30 of the Terrorism Act 2008. As such, Osborne was subject to a higher sentencing tariff and must serve a minimum of 43 years before being considered for parole.

Although satisfied with the verdict and sentencing, some critics argue Osborne should have been charged with anti-terror laws. “It is appalling that the police and CPS refused to charge him under anti-terrorism legislation whilst in court, they recognised it as an act of terrorism,” Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said.

“Why did they not charge him under the anti-terror laws? There is no difference in terrorism committed by some elements of the Muslim community and those of the far right,” he added.

The court heard how in June last year Osborne began looking at social media and other websites linked to Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League, and Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding, the co-founders of Britain First.

When police examined his digital devices, they found he had spent hours searching for extremist material, which fuelled his growing hatred of Muslims.

In a statement to The Muslim News, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Khan, said the terror attack was a “violent manifestation of Islamophobia” in the UK that cannot be complacently dismissed “as a one-off terrorist incident.”

“We heard during the trial how Osborne was motivated by anti-Muslim groups and Islamophobic tropes not only prevalent in far-right circles, but also made acceptable in our mainstream,” Khan added.

That sentiment was echoed by Nick Lowles, Chief Executive of anti-extremist charity, Hope Not Hate, who told The Muslim News the “case highlights the pernicious nature and danger of online hate and sadly confirms the threat from right-wing extremism. But it also highlights the role that far-right figures and rightwing media have played in propelling anti-Muslim hatred into the mainstream. We have long argued that the authorities have not properly understood the nature of anti-Muslim extremism and rhetoric and the potential impact it can have on the Darren Osbornes of this world.”

Commander Dean Haydon, Head of Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, welcomed “the Judge’s decision to sentence Osborne under the Terrorism Act, which reflects the gravity of his actions”.  Adding, “Osborne’s evil and cowardly attack meant a family has tragically lost a husband, father and grandfather.”

Osborne drove a hired van into a group of people who were gathered on Seven Sisters Road near to the junction with Whadcoat Street. The group were attending Makram Ali, who, moments earlier, had collapsed, having left a prayer meeting at Muslim Welfare House.

Ali, who was still lying on the ground sustained multiple injuries from the collision and died as result of these injuries. Twelve others were also injured in the attack, with several suffering serious fractures.

Following the collision, Osborne crashed his van into bollards in Whadcoat Street where he was detained by passersby as he attempted to flee.

Witnesses said he shouted “I want to kill all Muslims” as he jumped out of the vehicle, and he blew kisses and taunted victims as he waited in the back of a police van.

On his arrest, officers found various items in the van, including a hand-written note containing a monologue of his extremist views.

Through their enquiries officers believe that Osborne drove from Cardiff to London on June 18, 2017, with the intention of targeting the ‘Al Quds’ march, where he thought a large number of Muslim people would be present.

Osborne was, however, unable to access the march route with his vehicle.

Commander Haydon said: “Osborne had planned to come to London with the intention of carrying out an attack against the Muslim community. Only he will know, but if Osborne’s aim was to create divisions and hate between communities, then from what I have seen, he has failed in that respect. The way that the local community in Finsbury Park – of all faiths and backgrounds – came together was astounding and this reaction was the same across London and the UK.”

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