U.S. President Trump tweets frequently about cases involving jihadist terrorism in Europe, Australia and the United States. But he hasn’t tweeted a peep – nor said anything publicly – about Monday’s Finsbury Park attack, north of London, in which 47-year-old Darren Osborne shouted, “I want to kill all Muslims!” before driving his car into a crowd outside a mosque, killing one person and injuring eight.
Nor has Trump said or written anything about the brutal killing of a 17-year-old, abaya-wearing Muslim girl, Nabra Hassanen, who was kidnapped outside a Virginia mosque and battered to death with a metal bat by road-raging driver Darwin Martinez Torres on Father’s Day.
Earlier this year in Portland, Oregon, after Joseph Christian stabbed two good samaritans to death and wounded a third – people who were defending two young women, one wearing a hijab, while Christian shouted that “Muslims should die” – it took Trump four days to tweet that the attack was “unacceptable.”
And in January, when a white nationalist named Alexandre Bissonnette slaughtered six Muslims and injured five others in a shooting rampage outside a Quebec mosque, Trump didn’t tweet about that either. All the victims of that attack got from the U.S. president was a days-late acknowledgement from adviser Kellyanne Conway that he was “sympathetic to any loss of life.”
Why the relative silence? Probably because all these attacks were perpetrated by white nationalists or other far-right types, had Muslims as their victims, or both. Though it may have escaped Trump’s attention, this sort of violence is as common, or even more so, than that committed by supporters of the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and their allies.
So if you’re worried about your chances of being killed by a terrorist, you ought to be at least as worried about being attacked by right-wing and white nationalist terrorists as by Muslims. In fact, far-right terrorism and violence are on the rise, perhaps fuelled in part by Trump’s own intemperate campaign rhetoric about banning Muslims from the U.S. and about “rapists” from Mexico. Data gathered for a recent New America Foundation report on post-9/11 terrorism in the U.S. speaks to this.
“Prior to Omar Mateen and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last July, the number of deaths caused by right-wing attacks since 9/11 exceeded those caused by jihadists’ violent attacks,” says report co-author Albert Ford. Since 9/11, 95 people have died in jihadist attacks in the United States – more than half of which, 49, were killed in the Orlando attack – while 53 Americans died as the result of terrorist acts perpetrated by far-right-wing terrorists, according to the report. “The matter of terrorism in this country is far more complicated and involves a lot more people than you might think it does,” says Ford.
Of course, it’s not just Muslims who are victims of right-wing terrorists: Ever since white extremists blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, terror by wing-nuts, white nationalists, militia members and others of that ilk has been a constant presence on the American scene. Between 1993 and 2017, according to a new Anti-Defamation League report, there were 150 such incidents, from white supremacists, anti-government extremists, Islamophobes, anti-abortion extremists and anti-immigration extremists, leaving 255 dead and more than 600 injured.
All this has been known for a while. Back in 2009, an experienced analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, Daryl Johnson, authored a study that warned disgruntled military veterans, lone-wolf right-wingers, radical militia members and others posed a serious and growing threat in the United States. Johnson’s report came under withering fire from conservatives, Fox News and other right-leaning media; to its shame, Homeland Security repudiated it. But the problem isn’t going away: According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and its Hatewatch program, more than 1,600 right-wing, potentially violence-prone groups are active across the country, from neo-Nazis to the Ku Klux Klan.
When a terrorist incident traced to a white nationalist or some other right-winger occurs, it doesn’t get the same banner-headline treatment or wall-to-wall coverage as attacks blamed on ISIS or Al Qaeda – maybe because such attacks are so common, or because of the false and dangerous notion that these attackers don’t “look like” terrorists.
But as readers of Infowars and Brietbart News – not to mention just about every internet comments section – know, cheerleaders for far-right extremists aren’t shy about saying what they think. After the Finsbury attack Monday, they were out in force, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracked their responses on Facebook pages haunted by Britain’s extremists. Some examples [sic]: “What’s wrong with this man. Why didn’t he get a bigger van.” “May I suggest a soundtrack of Queens great rock hit Another one bites the dust.” “Yaaaaaaay lets all open a bottle of champaign.” And “Free the Finsbury Park hero.”
Meanwhile, in Virginia, the mother of Nabra Hassanen, the kidnapped and murdered girl, told the Washington Post, “I’m sure the guy hit my daughter because she’s Muslim and she was wearing the hijab. The thing in my head is, why did he do that to us? We’re not bad people. He doesn’t know us. Why did he ever do that? I don’t feel safe at all anymore, as a Muslim living here now. I’m so worried about sending my kids out and their coming back as bodies.”
More and more, Muslims in the UK, the United States and elsewhere are, like Hassanen’s mother, feeling unsafe. Unfortunately, it’s not likely that they’ll get much sympathy from President Trump.