The rush to condemn terror or offer support to victims is noble – but jumping to conclusions and spreading wrong information is actually quite dangerous.
The panic caused by heinous mass killings should never be exacerbated, but unfortunately, social media chatter often surfaces quicker than cold, hard facts.
People want to know what happened so they are reassured and safe, which is understandable.
This week there has been a mass shooting in Germany and a stabbing at London Central Mosque – part of a continuing trend of random extremism – it would seem.
Attacks have happened all over the world in recent years. In Pittsburgh against Jews, in Christchurch against Muslims, in Sri Lanka against Christians, and across Europe and the US.
In many ways, Europeans have become accustomed to hearing about these attacks – to the point whereby there is a certain numbness. It doesn’t shock as much as it used to.
Now it’s perhaps more about anger as to why these outrages are still happening, sometimes expressing itself with the rise of populists, who claim to have the answers to countering root-causes of extremism.
Uncertainty creates fertile ground for the far-right especially, who offer quick fixes and scapegoating.
London Central Mosque has heavy security.
It was shocking to hear someone had reportedly breached it to launch the attack, and my instant thought was it must have been a response to the mass shooting in Germany, in which nine were killed at a shisha bar.
After hearing about the incident, the Board of Deputies issued a statement, saying: “Our hearts go out to the muezzin, his family and the Muslim community, and we pray for his swift recovery.”
They added, that “It appears that this may be another far-right terrorist attack. We call on leaders in Britain and the world to stamp out this heinous wave of racist hate that has re-emerged. We must learn lessons from history, stop the spread of intolerance, and give it no quarter in our politics, media or society.”
The sentiment is great.
And it would have been a perfect statement, if it had been confirmed as a far-right terror attack.
But the suspect was arrested by police on suspicion of attempted murder , not terror.
He had been seen at the mosque before, and launched the attack during the prayers.
His motive is not yet known, and however good the intentions of the Board or of my own tweets, they shouldn’t have been issued, yet.
Stand in solidarity with Muslims, or any victim of a terror attack, but let’s not jump the gun.
Let’s all wait until concrete details emerge, the next time this happens. And unfortunately, there will probably be a next time. Then issue condolences and support, condemnation and revulsion.
Until then, let’s keep schtum.
Premature reaction only adds to the chaos and panic, not to mention feeding the online rumour mill, which is so often the source of more extremism.