'Daily Mail', other media outlets criticized for victim-blaming Muslims for Finsbury Park attack

Paramedics wait to assist victims in the Finsbury Park area of north London where a vehicle hit pedestrians in front of a mosque.
Source: Daniel Leal-Olivas /Getty Images
Paramedics wait to assist victims in the Finsbury Park area of north London where a vehicle hit pedestrians in front of a mosque.
Source: Daniel Leal-Olivas /Getty Images

On Sunday night, a white van rammed into pedestrians leaving London's Finsbury Park Mosque after "taraweeh," or nightly Ramadan prayers.

Media outlets began reporting on the incident as more details emerged. In some publications, like the Daily Mail Online, reporters went so far as to link the attack on the mosque with a radical cleric who used to preach there.

Some social media users are calling this victim-blaming.

Abu Hamza is an Egyptian-British cleric who served as an imam for the Finsbury Park Mosque from 1997 until he was removed from his position in 2003. Hamza was a vocal supporter of Osama Bin Laden and advocated for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate.

In 2004, Hamza was arrested on terrorism charges for inciting violence and racial hatred. After being extradited to the United States, Hamza was found guilty on 11 terrorism charges and is currently serving a life sentence without parole.

Since Hamza's departure from the mosque, the Finsbury Park Mosque has been instrumental in cooperating with law enforcement in counterterrorism efforts and aiding the greater London community. The mosque won a prestigious national award for its efforts in combatting religious extremism.

British journalist Hussein Kesvani, a former worshipper at the mosque, said it's "disingenuous" for news outlets to bring up Hamza in their coverage of the Finsbury Park incident.

"It's really disingenuous for the media to bring up Hamza now, especially because [the] Finsbury Park Mosque has been so instrumental in implementing programs that promote liberal British values and is one of the area's largest charitable providers," Kesvani said in a direct message on Twitter.

Despite its lack of funding, the mosque has helped the impoverished, refugees and asylum seekers, according to Kesvani. He said it has also provided food, water and support to victims of the London Grenfell Tower fire, which reportedly killed at least 58 people.

Tell MAMA, an independent NGO specializing in monitoring anti-Muslim hatred in the U.K., tweeted that publications tying Hamza to the mosque in their reporting of the attack are an "utter disgrace."

"It is disconcerting to see that some newspapers automatically inserted Abu Hamza into the headlines and linked the attack on Muslim worshippers today to the Finsbury Park mosque and hence the Abu Hamza association," Iman A'tta, director of Tell MAMA, said in an direct message on Twitter. "It seems that some papers will stoop to any level for click bait and for ad revenue knowing that the term Abu Hamza may drive some to click on articles."

It's not just the Daily Mail Online. Some Twitter users have pointed out that other reporters, like Tommy Robinson of Rebel Media, a Canadian right-wing online media site, also linked Hamza to the attack on Sunday.

Robinson's followers have used Hamza's relationship to the mosque as justification for the attack on Muslim worshippers — despite the fact that he was dismissed and outcasted from the community.

Metro UK, which has since edited its headline, originally described the Sunday incident as a "revenge" attack.

Some Twitter users pushed back against that kind of language, arguing the Finsbury Park Mosque worshippers are innocent.

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Sarah A. Harvard

Sarah is a staff writer covering religion, race and politics. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, and VICE. Send tips and feedback: sharvard@mic.com

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