Numerous people have committed atrocities in the name of Islam recently. However to erase the misconception that all Muslims are susceptible to radicalisation, and thus hate crimes such as at Finsbury Park are fair game, the media must realise and report the true nature of this belief system.
Why did the Finsbury Park attacker, in his madness, specifically target Muslim worshippers outside a mosque? The answer may be obvious, but the lessons and implications of the answer are perhaps more nuanced. Horrific acts of terrorism have been committed by Muslims in recent years, and as such, much of the public has been left wondering whether their faith really sanctions such heinous atrocities, or whether they are a perversion of a peaceful religion.
Certain elements of the popular media, especially the right-wing, have attempted to answer this question on behalf of the population. Headlines such as 'We Need Less Islam,' 'Is ISIS actually the beating heart of Islam?', 'Muslims Tell British: Go to Hell!' and 'Muslims sympathy for Jihadists,' have dominated our front pages over the past few years, and in doing so they have presented a mindset that barbaric acts of terrorism are not simply the fault of the terrorists, but the fault of the entire belief system. Therefore, all those who follow this belief system may potentially condone such acts, and are thus worthy of suspicion, or worse. In short, these elements of the media have implicitly invited us to believe that all Muslims are guilty unless proven otherwise. Due to their power and influence, naturally some will accept this invitation, and from this mindset fear and division grows, eventually bubbling over into abuse and hate crimes.
We are lucky to have a free and open press, but with that freedom comes responsibility. To make generalised assertions about an entire religion without having properly studied is dishonest, and even dangerous. If the Finsbury Park attacker had known that Islam commands its followers to protect all places of worship and to respect all other belief systems and ways of life, then perhaps he would have thought again before attempting to murder Muslims.
If he had known that serving humanity is not just recommended in Islam, but literally considered a form of worship to a merciful and beneficent God, then maybe the hatred in his heart would not have been so great. If he had known that the concept of Jihad in Islam entails not the slaughter of innocent people, but the personal purification of one's inner thoughts and desires, then perhaps he would not have considered the entire Muslim population guilty for the acts of a few. Of course some men can't be reasoned with, but the fact remains that defining Islam only by the invalid interpretation of terrorists hinders the achieving of social cohesion and harmony, and provides the breeding ground for Islamophobic attacks to occur.
What kinds of things should the media report instead? Well as an example, next month, the largest UK annual Muslim gathering takes place - a 3 day convention organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in which the values of pluralism, compassion and loyalty to nation are promoted, and extremism in all forms denounced. On the final day a huge human chain is created and over 30,000 people, linked together, take a pledge of peace. In my view, the media should flock to this event, witness true Islam in action, and change the way in which they report the religion. If they showed the nation this human chain of peace, then perhaps the bonds between all of us will grow stronger, and our suspicions and fears eradicated. Perhaps then, another attack like Finsbury Park can be prevented.