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Why, Yes, It IS Terrorism

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Just after midnight, London time, yet another attacker drove a van into a crowd of people, killing one and seriously injuring nine more. All of the victims were Muslims leaving their evening prayers in Finsbury Park.

This tragedy, on one hand, is disturbingly unsurprising, given the rise in terror attacks, virulent anti-Muslim sentiments, and hate crimes. What is surprising, on the other hand, is just how quickly and publicly this has been claimed as an act of terrorism.

There have been too many good and important pieces written on the heavy bias in reporting violence for me to begin offering links here. But we’ve all heard and/or voiced our own concerns about the way that violence by people with a particular set of physical characteristics is immediately denounced as terror, while white male mass killers are always something else (troubled, isolated, mentally ill…).

Coverage of the Portland train stabbings invoked “hate crimes,” but not terror (except, ironically, when the perpetrator himself denied being a terrorist). Even days after the attack, FBI was claiming that it was simply “too soon” to determine whether this was an act of domestic terrorism.

This morning’s killing of a Virginia teenager is, we are told, not even being considered as a hate crime (to be fair, details on this crime are still sketchy, but the victimization of a young veil-wearing Muslim woman certainly raises red flags). At the moment of writing, the Washington Post’s main page is carrying this headline just below their story on PM May’s insistence that the Finsbury Park attack was indeed an act of terror.

Now, it’s odd to find myself wanting to cheer any Theresa May statements, but props to her and everyone down to the local police who identified the attack as terrorism within eight minutes. The attacker, who was protected from angry bystanders by the local imam, is officially being held for terror offenses. May herself was quick to declare the violence “every bit as sickening” as other recent attacks.

It is awful and heart-wrenching for any community to reckon with this level of senseless and hate-filled violence. But calling terrorism by its actual name turns out to be easy enough.

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