By Owen Jones

Mohammed Saleem was murdered by a terrorist, and yet you’ve probably never even heard of him. It was April 2013, and the 82-year-old was walking home from evening prayers at a mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham. A Ukrainian neo-Nazi terrorist – who had bombed three mosques – stabbed him three times from behind. “He was a very beautiful, educated man who empowered all of his five daughters – and his sons as well – to pursue education, and loved and appreciated everything Britain gave him,” says Maz Saleem, his daughter. “I’ve spent six years tirelessly campaigning for him to be recognised in a mainstream platform.”

Three weeks later, the murder of Lee Rigby by Islamist fundamentalists sparked national outrage and an emergency Cobra meeting: not so for Saleem. “It was brushed under the mat,” Maz tells me. Or what of Mushin Ahmed, an 81-year-old grandfather who was killed by two British racists in August 2015 as he walked to pray at a Rotherham mosque? As one of his assailants screamed that he was a “groomer”, he was kicked with such force that his dentures shattered and the imprint of a trainer was left in his face. Or what of a 32-year-old black man in east London who, in June 2018, had to crawl on his knees to the A12 to escape a racist attack: he’d been stabbed five times.

I was on the receiving end of an attack in the early hours of last Saturday: my friends were punched defending me and I suffered very minor injuries. But as a white man with a media platform, what happened to me garnered far more interest than the racist murders or serious hate crimes that have far worse consequences than bumped heads and bruises. The far right is emboldened, legitimised and ever more violent, and hate crimes are surging. When we discuss Islamist fundamentalist terrorists, we ask: who are the hate preachers radicalising them in mosques or the internet? We have yet to engage seriously in a similar debate about far-right terrorism for a simple reason: the hate preachers are mainstream politicians, commentators and media outlets.

Consider the scale of the threat. The far right has always had two principal enemies – minorities and the political left – and nothing has changed. Eight years ago, the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik slaughtered dozens of predominantly young socialists on the island of Utøya. His reason? The left’s anti-racism meant they were the driving force behind what he described as the “Islamisation” and therefore destruction of Christian Europe. This was a particularly violent expression of a persistent far-right conspiracy theory and, while leftwing teenagers died on that Norwegian island, this narrative did not. Members of the left are, according to this mindset, traitors to their nation, seeking to destroy it through mass immigration of culturally hostile aliens, and are allies of a despised enemy – Islam as a demonised religion, Muslims as a people.

Far-right terrorists feed off the hatred that is often fanned by elites when it suits them. The recent El Paso terrorist attack, in which Latin American people were slaughtered, cannot be divorced from the systematic demonisation of Mexican immigrants by rightwing media outlets and Republican politicians, and now in an undiluted form by a US president who labels them rapists and criminals. Jews – who have been targeted for 2,000 years – were butchered and maimed in Pittsburgh less than year ago. The alleged terrorist reportedly accused Jews of trying to bring “evil” Muslims to the United States – here was an ancient hatred married to a more modern manifestation: Jews as disloyal and rootless, seeking to destroy western civilisation by importing dangerous Muslims. Chillingly, in overtly antisemitic remarks, Donald Trump this week accused Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats of “great disloyalty”. The 2015 far-right terrorist attack on a black church in Charleston cannot be understood in isolation from the fact that slavery, which has bequeathed an extensive racist legacy, was abolished just two lifetimes ago. In New Zealand’s Christchurch massacre, more than 50 Muslims – people with a faith that has been targeted not just by the far right but several mainstream media outlets and politicians – were murdered.

In Britain, the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by a white far-right terrorist who gave his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. What lesson was learned? How was Nigel Farage able to brag that Brexit had been won “without a single bullet being fired”, and later declare he’d “don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines” if Brexit wasn’t delivered, without his political or media career suffering? How did the far-right terrorist plot to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper with a machete not lead to national shock and horror – and a determination to crush the political ideology behind it? What of the far-right attack on Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park, whose perpetrator expressed a desire to murder Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan as terrorist supporters?

The hate preachers radicalising far-right extremists are not ranting on soap boxes on street corners: they get splashed on front pages. They use rhetoric such as “Enemies of the people”and “Crush the saboteurs”; they deploy distortions, myths, half-truths and lies to whip up hatred against Muslims, migrants and refugees, and to scapegoat them for crimes committed by the powerful.

In the clash between fascists and antifascists in Charlottesville, Trump infamously declared there “were very fine people on both sides”, and in doing so founded “both-sideism”: the idea that advocating white supremacy is morally equivalent to opposing racism and wanting rich people to pay higher taxes. Yet this moral equivalence – which includes claiming that the left is equally violent – is beyond dangerous. The far right might be committing murderous terrorist atrocities against minorities, but some guy poured a banana and salted caramel milkshake on Nigel Farage’s favourite suit! Sure, there are members of minorities being murdered on the streets by racists with little media coverage, but the US neo-Nazi Richard Spencer was punched once, so who is to say who is worse?

There is a systematic campaign to delegitimise the very few leftwing voices in the mainstream media and politics, orchestrated not just by the right, but by some self-described “moderates” and “centrists” too. The attempt to construct a false equivalence between a far right that is on a murderous rampage against minorities and their allies, and a left committed to resisting its hatred and violence, is perverse. Mainstream politicians and several media outlets are legitimising ideas that fuel ideologically driven far-right terrorism and violent racist and bigoted attacks. Many more will be injured, and will die, as a consequence, and because they are not white, and because they lack a national platform, you will probably never hear their names.