Here we go again. Another vehicle in London has “mounted the curb” and plowed into a crowd of people, killing one and injuring ten others. This time, however, there’s a possible twist. The attack took place outside of a mosque. One driver, no additional weapons mentioned thus far, no coordinated attacks in other locations and the driver reportedly didn’t exit the vehicle and attempt to take down anyone else. This has the local authorities pleading for calm and launching yet another exhausting investigation. (BBC)
One person was arrested following the incident near Finsbury Park Mosque on Seven Sisters Road.
Officers were called at 00.20 BST and remain at the scene, the Metropolitan Police said, describing it as a “major incident”. London Ambulance Service said it had sent “a number of resources”.
Witnesses said the area was busy because worshippers had been attending evening prayers.
The Muslim Council of Britain said its “prayers are with the victims.”
You can see the obvious hook which several news outlets are already beginning to tease on this story. There were initial reports of, “a white van driver” mounting the curb near the mosque, but they were unclear as to whether the adjective applied to the van, the driver or both. (For the record, it seems that the van was indeed white.) This is compounded by reports allegedly given to the press by witnesses that the driver specifically said he “wanted to kill Muslims.” Of course, another witness said that the person who died was already receiving first aid before the van plowed into the crowd and may not have been killed by the driver. As usual, many of the initial reports may well prove incorrect.
But either way, there are inevitable suspicions being raised that this might be a case of “reverse terrorism” where someone is specifically targeting the Muslim community with a low tech terror attack similar to the recent London Bridge attack. It didn’t take long for some commentators to at least hint that there might be some similarity to an arrest made in Virginia over the weekend in the assault and murder of a 17 years old Muslim girl. (WaPo)
Police found remains Sunday thought to be those of a missing Virginia teenager who they say was assaulted and disappeared overnight after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area, and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.
The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.
Fairfax County police identified the man charged with murder in her death as Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling.
So are these incidents of people “striking back” in response to Islamic terror attacks? It’s too early to say. As usual, the Brits are much better at keeping details close to the vest and not leaking everything out to the press at once while they begin their investigation. The van driver in London could have selected that location at random I suppose. Or the driver might actually be ISIS inspired. (It’s not as if the Islamic terrorists don’t kill more Muslims than anyone else.) But let’s at least admit that those scenarios don’t seem nearly as likely here and the possibility of it being some sort of vigilantism run amuck has to be considered.
The fact that assaulting and/or murdering anyone is completely unacceptable under any circumstances should go without saying (though sadly, it needs to be repeated for some). But even with that said, the sorts of attacks being suggested here would be a major setback in the war on terror. Too many activists have already been clamoring about a culture of fear, rampant Islamophobia and everything else under the sun which might redirect attention away from the secretive communities which have been producing these terrorist sympathizers and actual attackers. If there truly are specific attacks taking place against Muslim communities it just adds strength to those arguments.
In any event, this all remains speculative to a large degree until we have more details. And whomever is found responsible for these assaults needs to be brought to justice just as firmly as anyone else who would stoop to such levels.