Religious leaders unite in condemnation of Finsbury Park attack

Muslim leaders have reacted to the attack in Finsbury Park, north London, with shock, condemnation and calls for security at mosques to be stepped up. Many also said the backdrop of the attack was rising Islamophobia.

Support also came from Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders.

The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack near the Muslim Welfare . Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said: “It appears from eyewitness 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.

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“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 wanted “transformative action ... to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia,” Khan said.

“Many will feel terrorised, no doubt be angry and saddened by what has taken place tonight,” he said. “We urge calm as the investigation establishes the full facts, and in these last days of Ramadan, pray for those affected and for justice.”

The Muslim Association of Britain “unreservedly condemn[ed] this evil terror attack” and called on police to increase security in mosques.

It demanded politicians “treat this major incident no less than a terrorist attack. We call on the government to do more to tackle this hateful evil ideology which has spread over these past years and resulted in an increase of Islamophobic attacks and division of our society, as well as spreading of hate.”

Tell Mama, an organisation which monitors anti-Muslim abuse and attacks, said its staff had visited the Muslim Welfare House on Friday to urge the congregation to report anti-Muslim hatred and to keep safety during Ramadan.

The mosque has previously been targeted for anti-Muslim hate, Tell Mama said. Its director, Iman Atta, said: “We have put out numerous safety leaflets to mosques to ensure vigilance so that congregations are safe. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are more visible and when there are larger congregations who attend late at night to pray after opening their fasts. Mosque safety needs to be stepped up and this includes entry and exit points.”

Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, which is close to Muslim Welfare House, said: “This is a shocking new terrorist attack - and we have to call it that. It’s no different to Manchester, Westminster or London Bridge. Innocent people have lost their lives while just going about their business. Innocent people are being killed in cold blood.”

Kozbar called for action by the government and police to protect mosques, and said the his own mosque would be tightening security. “We need to show the community they are safe and protected.”

Ramadan, due to end at the weekend, with Eid al-Fitr expected to begin on Sunday, was always a busy time for mosques, with people coming and going to pray all night, he said.

“Finsbury Park is a diverse community, living together in harmony,” Kozbar said. “The person who did this wants to spread hatred and fear. We will not let them succeed. We will all come together to support the people affected. Our thoughts and prayers are will the victims: we will comfort them and stand with them.”

Finsbury Park mosque was associated with the radical cleric Abu Hamza until 2005, when it was taken over by new management. Now it is seen as a model of community relations.

Support was also offered by other faith leaders. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted:

The Sikh Federation UK said its thoughts and prayers were with those affected. “The incidents in the last three months suggest there needs to be an honest dialogue and a fundamental shift in the way government tackles all forms of hate and terror,” said chair Bhai Amrik Singh.

“Hate and terror must be stamped out by directly confronting all those who promote an ideology and philosophy based on hate and terror.”

The European Jewish Congress expressed shock and condemned the attack. “This is an unconscionable attack on Muslim worshippers during their holy month of Ramadan,” Moshe Kantor, EJC president, said.

“We condemn this attack and its attempt to escalate tensions in the UK and we stand firmly besides our Muslim brothers and sisters in the aftermath of this attack. An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions, and all people and faiths must stand together against terror.”


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