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On 19 June 2017 the BBC reported, ‘A man has been arrested on suspicion of terror offences after he drove a van into a group of worshippers close to a mosque in north London. One man, who had taken ill before the attack began, died and nine others were taken to hospital, some of whom were critically injured. The terror attack happened shortly before 00:20 BST on Monday, 19 June, when the vehicle mounted the pavement outside Muslim Welfare House – which is also a community centre – on Seven Sisters Road’. click here.

Selection of Responses – Muslim civil society, media, faith groups, politicians, blogs

Muslim civil society

The Finsbury Park Mosque condemns in the strongest terms a heinous terrorist attack earlier this morning in Finsbury Park, north London which resulted in many injured and reported fatalities. The van driver deliberately mowed down Muslim men and women leaving late evening prayers from Finsbury Park Mosque and Muslim Welfare House just after midnight. This is a callous terrorist attack, which coincides with the murdered MP, Jo Cox anniversary. We are extremely unhappy with the mainstream media not reporting this as a terrorist attack, whereas they are very swift in describing attacks involving individuals professing to be Muslims and acting in the name of Islam. We need fair and balanced reporting from the media; it is completely unacceptable that the media choses to engage in selective reporting. Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Mosque described the incident as “a cowardly attack which is no different than the attacks in Manchester and London, our community is in shock, our thought and prayer with those who have been effected by this”. Finally, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We urge all attending mosques and going about their business to remain vigilant in this difficult time. click here.

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “. . .During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship. My prayers are with the victims and their families. It appears from eye witness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia.  Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date. Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency. Muslim communities have been calling for increased action to tackle the growth in hate crime for many years and transformative action must now be taken to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia. Many will feel terrorised, no doubt be angry and saddened by what has taken place tonight. We urge calm as the investigation establishes the full facts, and in these last days of Ramadan, pray for those affected and for justice.” click here.

Media comment

Nesrene Malik in the Guardian, ‘Any claims that anti-Muslim violence is not encouraged by tabloid culture, reactionary politics and tolerance of hate speech are just as flawed as the “it is nothing to do with Islam” response to jihadist terrorism. In the same way that the radicalising influence of websites, some clerics and Muslim organisations needs to be addressed, we now need to confront the fact that Islamophobia has its preachers too. After the Manchester Arena attack, Katie Hopkins called for a “final solution”. She deleted her tweet and apologised for it, but it did not, to be frank, seem out of character. The fact that she is still employed by the Daily Mail, occupied until recently a prime time slot on LBC and is defended vigorously on the grounds of freedom of speech is an illustration of the extent to which we apply double standards. The uncomfortable truth is that Hopkins and her ilk are given permission to spout invective because they are seen by some as “one of our own” – and therefore in a different category, tolerated and excused.’ click here.

Faith group responses

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

The freedom to worship without fear is a right we cherish as a nation and was won at great human cost over many years. The appalling attack on Muslims in Finsbury Park is an attack on us all and on the culture and values of our country. At a time when we are all grieving the loss of so many precious people in London and Manchester, this brutal attack can only compound the trauma. Violence only begets more violence – it serves only the interests of those who would terrorise others. This wanton and cruel act can produce no good and cannot be justified or excused. In exactly the same way as previous recent attacks it is a crime against God and against humanity.’ click here.

Bishop of Leicester, Rev Martyn Snow

Once again I am shocked and saddened to wake to news of another attack on the streets of London, this time on Muslims leaving prayers after breaking their Ramadan fast. All those caught up in this are in our thoughts and prayers. Any act of terrorism, no matter who the perpetrator, aims to drive divisions through our society. I urge you therefore to stand together to condemn all such acts of violence and to continue to work for a stronger and more united community, here in Leicester and beyond. click here.

Churches Together in England

“We were shocked to learn of the brutal attack on worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park mosque in the early hours of this morning. We unreservedly condemn all acts of violence which seek to undermine our society and foster hatred and intolerance.  Jesus came among us as the Prince of Peace, and in his name and for his sake, we stand in solidarity with our Muslim friends. We remember in our prayers those who have been injured.  We pray for the leaders of our communities and nation, and for those who work in our  emergency services. We pray too for those who perpetrate such acts that God may touch their hearts and minds  with his love, forgiveness and compassion.”

Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

 Revd Dr Hugh Osgood, the Free Churches Moderator

 The Revd Canon Billy Kennedy, the President nominated by the New Churches, the Religious Society of Friends (ie the Quakers) and the Lutheran and German-speaking Churches

 Bishop Angaelos, the President for the Orthodox Churches

 Bishop Dr Eric Brown, the Pentecostal President

Sikh Council UK

 Sikh Council UK is appalled by the cowardice attack on the Finsbury Park North London Mosque earlier today. We are outraged and shocked to hear of such horrific attack that has claimed the loss of an innocent life and numerous injuries.  The Sikh Community stands in solidarity and condemns such barbaric acts. We pray as we join together in offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those affected as we hope for a fast recovery to all those who have been injured. We commend the bravery of the community who came together in overcoming this act of evil. We shall do all that we can to ensure places of worship are safe.
Mr Gurmel Singh MBE, Secretary General, Sikh Council UK.
Board of Deputies

Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush has condemned last night’s attack outside a mosque in north London. Jonathan said: “We condemn the attack on Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park last night, which appears to be a terrorist incident. Our heartfelt sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with the victims. This weekend, the Jewish community joined Muslims and others up and down the country for the Great Get Together in memory of Jo Cox.  All good people must stand together and join in rejecting hatred and violence from wherever it comes. The way forward is to strengthen the moderate majority and repudiate and marginalise extremism of every type. Hatred of people because of their religion has no place in our society.” click here.

Hindu Council UK

The Hindu Council UK is shocked and devastated at the horrific and awful attack on innocent people after a van ploughed into worshippers leaving a mosque which took place shortly after midnight on Sunday night . . . The hatred that is demonstrated by this act is hard to understand, especially after a weekend of large gatherings of people of all religions, faith and ethnicity in support of solidarity, peace, community cohesion and to heal community tensions and to unite people of different backgrounds on the basis of our common humanity. Finsbury Park is one of London’s most diverse and lively areas. It is a place where young and old, rich and poor, and people of every race, live together in harmony. In the UK, the vast majority of people want to live in a peaceful and diverse community. We rejoice in our diversity and the opportunity this gives us for peaceful living side by side and upholding the values of justice and peace of our society.
While this vile attack was targeted at innocent Muslims leaving prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect. Any attack on a particular faith or a place of worship – is an attack on all of us. We have to protect each other’s faith. Terrorists and Extremists, irrespective of their colour, race, ethnicity or religious beliefs want to divide us, and we simply can not let them win.
Furthermore, we appeal to our Temples and other Places of Worship to remain vigilant and follow the guidance provided by the Police, especially during the challenges that we are all facing today. The Hindu Council UK condemn hatred, racism, prejudice, and violence in all its forms; and we are committed to working with other faiths and those of none in supporting each other for a kinder and more tolerant society. It is vital, now more than ever, to stand together and not let those who seek hate to divide us to succeed. What we need now is more openness to eradicate all forms of extremism. “We have far #MoreInCommon than that which divides us”

Politicians’ responses

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party,  “I am shocked by this horrific and cruel attack in Finsbury Park, which is being treated as an act of terror.  I offer my condolences to the family and friends of the man who has died, and our thoughts are with the people who have been injured, their family and friends. As the local MP, I have met with Muslim community leaders at the Muslim Welfare House alongside Islington Council Leader Richard Watts, the council’s Chief Executive Lesley Seary and the Metropolitan Police.  Richard and I will attend prayers at Finsbury Park mosque later today.  I appeal for people and the media to remain calm and respectful of those affected. In the meantime, I call on everyone to stand together against those who seek to divide us.’ click here.

Theresa May MPPrime Minister, ‘. . .  This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship. And like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal. It seeks to drive us apart; and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country . . . It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms; and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible. As I said here two weeks ago, there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia. That is why this government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology – both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to grow. It is why we will be reviewing our Counter-Terrorism strategy and ensuring that police and security services have the powers they need.

And it is why we will establish a new Commission for Countering Extremism as a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism in the same way as we have fought racism – because this extremism is every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life and we will stop at nothing to defeat it. . . click here.

Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary, ‘. . . My thoughts are now with the victims of this outrage, their families and the Muslim community. In recent times Muslims have been quick to show solidarity and support victims of other attacks, and it is now time to extend the same hand of friendship to them. Other faiths have already been quick to express their shock and lend their support. But we must not stop there. This is not just about warm words. Muslims must feel safe and we are working together to tackle hate crime as well as all forms of extremism. This is something in which all of us have a part to play. We must unite the might of community spirit and the full force of the law to ensure every person in the UK is protected. Let there be no doubt we will be tough on terror wherever it strikes. And last night’s attack was terrorism.’ click here.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, ‘ . . Ramadan is an extremely holy time for Muslims – it’s a month of fasting, prayer, charity and empathising with others. Following another dark day for London, Muslims will today be fasting and tonight praying and thinking once again of the heroic actions taken by our emergency services and ordinary bystanders. The local community in Islington described to me how people wrestled the terrorist to the ground, but then how the local imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, ensured others did not harm him while they waited for the police to arrive.

These are the kinds for stories that give us hope. They show that our values, of justice and the rule of law, and our determination not to be divided, will always be stronger than the hate and terror of the extremists. London has been through an incredibly difficult few weeks, but I know Londoners will remain strong and united.  click here.

Blogs

Katy P Sian, ‘. . . The unstable climate of war and terror, alongside austerity and cynicism, have all combined to develop a toxic breeding ground for racism, xenophobia and division to thrive. The various terror acts coordinated by Muslim men are not simply the result of a perverse ideology, but more directly the outcome of a failed and broken foreign policy that has helped create and strengthen the threat. In a similar vein, the terror attacks coordinated by white men are not simply the result of mental illness, but rather the outcome of sustained policies, legislation and right wing rhetoric that has enabled white supremacy, Islamophobia, and anti-migrant discourse to flourish.’ click here.

Dr Abdul Haqq Baker, ‘. . . One conclusion that can be reached when comparing this latest attack with the almost identical ones at Westminster and London Bridge is that Muslim perpetrators of darker complexions immediately equate to terrorists, whereas those who are non-Muslim and of a white hue do not. Adebolajo and Adebowale –Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers – were also eventually charged with murder; however, this does not change the above observation as there was no hesitation in labeling their barbaric attack as terrorism, even as they stood proclaiming their distorted beliefs before the police arrived. Why is there an apparent disparity when reporting such incidents? Even when we look further afield at cases like that of Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway, he was subjected to the country’s ‘soft’ laws and charged with murder. He received the country’s maximum 21-year sentence. Look even further afield in the US and the disparity between sentencing black and white criminals is even more glaring.

Following Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993, the subsequent Macpherson Report identified institutionalised racism against ethnic minorities – the black community in particular. The report recommended a raft of proposals to tackle ‘institutionally racist’ police. To claim that little has changed since then is to deny the overall progress made between police and black communities. However, this does not necessarily include or extend to Muslims.

Islamophobia has largely replaced the type of racism once targeting black communities and has, to some extent, become the undercurrent of police and Muslim community relations. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, the gradual shift of the PREVENT Strategy, from a community-focused to community-targeted approach, is sufficient evidence to highlight this Islamophobic trend.

The currently beleaguered Prime Minister, Theresa May, appears to have overcome her recent ineptitude (which resulted in political and PR disasters) by making an emphatic statement about this recent attack. Her public statement regarding Islamophobia being a form of extremism is long overdue and welcomed. She should be commended for this timely speech, which also acknowledged the common values that we all – British Muslims and non-Muslims alike – share.  However, are her comments merely superficial rhetoric or will we begin to witness a shift in the government’s approach from the sort of bias that has crept into political as well as media narratives when it relates to Muslims?. . . click here.

 

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