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Islamophobia breeds 'vicious circle', tabloids fanning flames: Experts

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A banner covered in tributes outside Finsbury Park Mosque, near to the scene of the June 19 van attack on pedestrians, in the Finsbury Park area of north London on June 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

British experts and Islamic leaders have expressed concern at the worrying level of Islamophobia in the UK following the attack on Muslims at the Finsbury Park mosque, pointing to the divisive rhetoric of British tabloids.

Opposition politicians, writers and cartoonists in the liberal press are condemning the swirling currents of hatred that led to a white driver, Darren Osborne, slamming his van into worshipers outside the mosque in north London, shouting “I want to kill all Muslims.”

J.K. Rowling, a British novelist, film and television producer, pointed to heated rhetoric by Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, as the Harry Potter author tweeted "let's talk about how the #FinsburyPark terrorist was radicalized."

Martin Rowson, a cartoonist for The Guardian, responded to the Finsbury Park attack with a drawing of Osborne's hired van bearing an advertisement on the side that said, "Read The Sun and Daily Mail."

According to The Independent, there has been a fivefold rise in hate crimes against Muslims across Britain in the days since Sunday’s London Bridge terror attack, where assailants ran over pedestrians and went on a stabbing spree at a nearby restaurant, killing 7 people and injuring 48 more.

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British whites accounted for 91 of 260 arrests for terrorism-related offences last year, an increase of 28 percent from 2015 and the only ethnic group to show an increase, government statistics reveal.

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Islamophobic helpline Tell Mama, said a factor fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment is violence and hatred promoted by the British tabloids.

Tributes and flowers placed in the Finsbury Park area of north London on June 20, 2017, for the victims of a van attack on pedestrians on June 19. (Photo b AFP)

“But sadly, whenever you have a major incident, you have headlines and opinion writers who are allowed to spew out some of the most inflammatory content simply to spawn clickbait and newspaper sales,” Mughal told AFP.

Raffaello Pantucci, a counter-terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said, “It's unfortunately a vicious circle.”

“Terrorism has no faith, no religion. They are trying to damage our relationship: we will not let them do that,” Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque said.

British Muslims have faced an “explosion” in faith-based hate crimes since the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU. In March, thousands of people took to the streets in London and other cities to protest against the rise in Islamophobia, racism and anti-refugee motions in the country.

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