As New York mourns yesterday’s tragic event, the far right seized the opportunity to spread Islamophobic speculations.

Late yesterday afternoon a car drove into pedestrians in New York’s Times Square, killing an 18-year-old woman and leaving at least 22 injured. The suspected driver, Richard Rojas, 26, from the Bronx, has been taken into custody.

The incident remains under investigation, though authorities have stated that there is no evidence that this was a terrorist attack. Speculation has arisen about Rojas’ motivation, given his history of aggression, violence and of driving while intoxicated.

A friend of Rojas’ also told The New York Times that Rojas had become highly paranoid following his discharge from the US Navy, and officials have stated Rojas told police he had been “hearing voices”.

Presumptions of Terror & Suspicions of a Cover Up

Despite the lack of evidence suggesting the crash was intended as an act of terrorism, and the potential (and evidenced) alternative explanations, far-right figures from the UK and USA were quick to jump to anti-Islamic, racist and conspiratorial presumptions.

Columnist Katie Hopkins jumped on the Islamic terrorism narrative, tweeting:

“Bad news, son. No 72 virgins for you. But the big boys in the slammer heard they are about to receive one. Enjoy.”

Hopkins also retweeted a user implying that we’d soon find out the suspect’s “muslim name”.

Irma Hinojosa, a US social media personality in the so-called ‘Alt-Light’ fringe of the far-right alt-right movement, who first gained attention through the Latinos with Trump movement (and who spoke at the alt-light ‘Make Cali Great’ gathering in April) also presumed Islam was to blame:

“This was a deliberate act not that of a drunk driver in Times Square. This is being covered up. It was a jihadi.”

Elsewhere, the popular alt-right site VDARE tried to blame the act on multiculturalism, before turning to a specifically anti-Hispanic message:

Kyle Chapman (AKA ‘Based Stick Man’) leader of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights – the militant wing of Gavin McInnes’ Proud Boys organisation – carried on the anti-Islam sentiment:

Finally, some far-right figures presumed that explanations about the event can’t have provided the whole picture, seemingly in the hope that their favoured narratives would eventually be supported as the “real” story emerged.

Paul Joseph Watson, for example, who is known for perpetuating conspiracy theories through his work with fake news site InfoWars, tweeted the following:

In a time when Islamophobia is rife and distrust in mainstream news and politics is high, these far-right figures know that their fake news can hold great sway over their audiences.

HOPE not hate will continue to respond to these attempts to provoke hatred and division.

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