JK Rowling Asks Key Question: How Was London Attacker Radicalized?

Laurel Dammann
After an attack outside a London mosque, which is being investigated as a terrorist act, the author pointed out a pervasive double standard on extremist violence.

Muslim man holds hands to his head

There is an incredibly problematic double standard when it comes to acts of terrorism, and famed author J.K. Rowling hit it head on in her recent tweets following the tragedy outside of the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London.

A white man, identified as 47-year-old local Darren Osborne, drove a van into a group of pedestrians outside of the mosque after evening prayers, killing one person and injuring several more. United Kingdom Prime Minster Theresa May said that authorities are investigating the incident as a terror attack, and Rowling wants to know how exactly Osborne was radicalized.

She first posed the question in a tweet slamming The Daily Mail for a vague headline in their coverage of the attack. Rowling corrected the publication for initially describing Osborne as merely a white man rather than a potential terrorist, a detail that The Mail has since updated.

"The Mail has misspelled 'terrorist' as 'white van driver.' Now let's discuss how he was [radicalized]," she wrote, but the tweet has since been removed due to clap back defending the headline, as it had apparently been written before Osborne faced charges of terrorism. 

However, Rowling reiterated her question concerning how exactly Osborne came to target Muslims, pointing out potentially inflammatory statements by right-wing columnist Katie Hopkins and British politician Nigel Farage.

She wasn't the only one to speak out. "Rogue One" star Riz Ahmed and others also took to Twitter to point out the double standard and make it clear to those living in prejudice that jihadists do not define terrorism. Hate and bigotry do, and these are qualities all humans are capable of.

One notable responder calling for equal treatment to all extremists was James Melville, the widower of assassinated British politician Jo Cox. Cox was murdered in 2016 by a terrorist associated with far-right politics.

Amidst the Islamophobic rhetoric of right-wing politicians in the U.K. and across the pond in the United States, there is a disturbingly widespread view that terrorism and Islam are nearly one in the same. As a result, when acts of terrorism are committed by people outside of the Muslim faith, the public is slower to label them terrorists and extremists, encouraging bias and creating space for more violence.

At its core, the radicalization of an Islamophobe who targets innocent Muslims is no different from the radicalization of a Muslim extremist targeting innocents. If we are going to truly wage a war on terror, all terror, the first battle is teaching people exactly what terrorism is.

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