J.K. Rowling wrote the (children’s fantasy) book about the damage caused by sowing hate toward outsiders and division, so it’s no surprise she’s disgusted by anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In a horrific van attack on a crowd leaving a mosque in London’s Finsbury Park neighborhood late Sunday night, several people were injured and one man, who had reportedly become ill before the attack began, was left dead. Witnesses said a white, middle-aged man steered the van into a group of people who had been attending Ramadan services at the mosque. The man reportedly exited the van and shouted “I want to kill all Muslims” before being detained by bystanders.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has already described the event as an act of terrorism that targeted the Muslim community. In a statement, she urged British citizens to turn to unity.
But recent months have seen a rise in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric across Western nations, including the U.K. Rowling was quick to comment on the vitriol toward Islam that preceded the attack ― and the framing of the Finsbury Park incident in The Daily Mail.
“The Mail has misspelled ‘terrorist’ as ‘white van driver.’ Now let’s discuss how he was radicalised,” she wrote alongside a screenshot.
Rowling noted that certain outlets continued to direct blame at the mosque, which had just seen its worshippers targeted in a violent terrorist attack despite its well-documented work in combating extremism.
“Victim blaming in the usual newspapers is disgusting,” she wrote.
But she didn’t stop there: Rowling hasn’t forgotten the anti-Muslim rhetoric that many prominent political figures in the U.K. have recently spread. She used messaging from conservative British politician Nigel Farage, shown in one image standing next to a pro-Brexit ad accused of sowing racial hatred, to illustrate her point.
Challenged by British radio journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, Rowling masterfully smacked down the hypocrisy of fixating on Islamist clerics who demonize Western values while deflecting any responsibility for demonizing Muslims, pointing out the subtle yet influential ways anti-immigration politicos gin up fear and hatred toward refugees and immigrants from the Middle East.
What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, Rowling suggested ― if Britons fear the influence of clerics who preach hatred toward white, secular societies, then it must also follow that politicians preaching fear and resentment toward Muslims, refugees and immigrants might also have the power to incite violence.
”Those who dehumanise & stereotype muslims have no moral high ground from which to deplore demonisation of secular westerners by Islamists,” the author stated.
She certainly has a point.
UPDATE: Rowling deleted her tweet criticizing The Daily Mail for describing the man arrested after the attack as a “white van driver” rather than a “terrorist.” In a series of tweets explaining the deletion, she noted, “I deleted my tweet about the Mail not calling the
#FinsburyPark attacker a terrorist because many rightly pointed out that the headline was written before charges had been brought against him.”
She added that she stood by her criticism that the Mail headline directed blame at the victims of the attack by referencing an Islamist cleric who had preached at the mosque years before. “I’m still angry about that,” she tweeted, “but I fully accept that in the immediate aftermath, it isn’t reasonable or responsible for a newspaper to rush to judgement without knowing the facts.”
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