How does a man come to the point of planning and carrying out the murder of 50 men, women and children peacefully praying in places of worship? For many the answer is easy: the perpetrator of the Christchurch mosque killings was evil or just a lone madman, but that answer is both simple and wrong.

We do a disservice to those who died if we ignore this was not a lone act of terrorism, although terrorism it certainly was, the hatred that drove that man to kill did not come from nowhere, it was the result of the flames of his hatred being fanned over many years.

Whenever there’s an attack by self-styled Islamic terrorists, many call upon Muslims to denounce those acts of people they’ve never met and whose deeds they never condoned, yet when a white man commits an atrocity we write it off as the act of some random weirdo. Psychologists even have a name for this contradiction, it’s called the ‘Fundamental Attribution Error.’

This man’s actions do not represent the views of all white people and we do condemn him, but we cannot hide from the fact his actions are part of a growing Islamophobia, just its most extreme form. We’ve all seen it, most often in pictures on Facebook making some negative comment about Muslims, maybe we’ve even reshared them without making any attempt to find out if they were actually true. This isn’t just a harmless mistake, over time it conditions us to intolerance and helps fan the flames of extremists.

We learnt the hard way in the 1930s, you can’t turn hate off, once it’s unleashed its fires grow and eventually all are consumed in its flames. We have to stop the appeasement, it didn’t work in Czechoslovakia and it won’t work now. Only one thing has ever stopped fascists: good men and women having the courage to get in their way. I’m not asking you to man a barricade yet, hopefully it won’t come to that again, but the next time you see or hear something Islamophobic maybe consider doing something about it

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

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