Finsbury Park: Terror strikes again. And we shouldn't call it anything else

The attack on worshippers outside Finsbury Park Mosque is just as appalling as the attack on passers-by on Westminster Bridge, concert-goers at the Manchester Arena and evening drinkers in Borough Market.

No less, no more. Terror is terror. Murder is murder.

You wouldn't think that such sentences needed to be written, but they do.

Police officers walk behind cordon tape at the scene of the Finsbury Park mosque attack.Reuters

The man who appears to have used his van as a weapon, leaving one person dead and at least 10 wounded, is reported to have screamed: 'I'm going to kill all Muslims' and 'I'd do it again.' He has been taken into custody having been rescued from a vengeful mob by an imam, Mohammed Mahmoud. His mental state will be assessed by professionals who will decide whether he was sick or just wicked.

Whatever their decision about his potential culpability in law, the point remains: there is not one description of a terror act for Islamists radicalised by a perverse ideology and a burning sense of injustice, and another for people radicalised by the actions of those same Islamists. It isn't Christians against Muslims. It's decent people against indecent; people who believe everyone has the right to live and worship and flourish as they like, against people who see them as legitimate targets in a crazy religious war. Because religion has nothing to do with it.

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No, you wouldn't imagine that would need saying.

But when the Archbishop of Canterbury posted a supportive message on Facebook, one commentator said: 'Yes violence and revenge are wrong. However a lot of people are feeling more and more that as we are not being protected by our government and there is little or no come back on the perpetrators of terrorism against us, they have to protect themselves. It will only get worse.'

Another said: 'While this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. it was only a matter of time before a frustrated British citizen probably feeling very 2nd class at the moment went for a bit of retaliation.'

They weren't the majority or anything like it. But you see the dynamic? 'It's not surprising that someone would want to do to them what they do to us.'

And it kind of works, if you assume 'they' are Muslims and 'we' are Christians – or at least, non-Muslims. But the reality is that 'they' are vicious, conscienceless criminals. That doesn't describe the victims of last night's attack; they were just people. And the man who did it wasn't representing 'us'; he was representing other vicious, conscienceless criminals.

There's a kind of primal tribalism that Christians above all are called to resist. It is an insidious identification with a particular people group. It can be based on colour, class, language, gender, religion or geography.

It's heresy. The whole of the New Testament is a passionate argument against it, from Jesus and the Samaritan woman to John's great vision of 'a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb'. In the politics of the Kingdom of God, 'us' and 'them' are erased.

So no victim-blaming weasel words about how 'it was only to be expected'. When opinion-formers speak glibly about 'three terrorist attacks in three months', meaning Westminster, Manchester and Borough Market, let's call them out: there were four. Let's see as much denunciation of this man as we did of all the others.

And – a day after the Great Get Together to commemorate someone else who died at the hands of an extremist – to people who say, 'See where all this talk of love and forgiveness gets you?' let's just say, 'It's infinitely better than the alternative. And we know whose side we're on.'

Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods

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