UK Muslim leaders slam 'most violent manifestation of Islamophobia'

Muslims pray on a sidewalk in the Finsbury Park area of north London after a vehichle hit pedestrians, on June 19, 2017.
Muslims pray on a sidewalk in the Finsbury Park area of north London after a vehichle hit pedestrians, on June 19, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • The Muslim Council of Britain said the latest terrorist attack in London was the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia in Britain in recent months, and called for extra security at places of worship.

"Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date," Mr Harun Khan, secretary-general of the council, said in a statement yesterday.

"Many will feel terrorised, no doubt be angry and saddened, by what has taken place tonight," he added, as he called for calm.

The Ramadhan Foundation community group similarly warned that "rampant Islamophobia has been on the rise for a number of years".

"The British Muslim community requires all decent people to stand with us against this evil violence," said the foundation's head, Mr Mohammed Shafiq.

Yesterday's attack, which occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, saw a van ploughing into people leaving prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in the country.

Witness Abdulrahman Aidroos said he and his friends were tending to an old man who had suffered a heart attack when the van was driven at them. "When (the driver) was running, he was saying, 'I wanna kill more people, I wanna kill more Muslims,'" he told BBC TV.

Police said the old man had died, but it was not clear if his death was directly linked to the attack.

Eight others are in hospital, with two in a very serious condition. Two others were treated at the scene. All are Muslims.

The incident comes just over two weeks after three Muslim militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight.

It also follows a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester last month which killed 22, while in March, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. His attack killed five people.

Hate crimes rose after the June 3 London Bridge attack, police had said. On a single day - June 6 - 20 anti-Muslim incidents were reported, compared with a daily average of 31/2 incidents previously this year.

Mr Khan of the Muslim Council said Muslim communities had, for years, been calling for more action to tackle the growth in hate crime. "Transformative action must now be taken to tackle not only this incident, but also the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia," he added.

The Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, said extra police had been deployed to reassure communities, especially those observing Ramadan.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'UK Muslim leaders slam 'most violent manifestation of Islamophobia''. Print Edition | Subscribe