London (AsiaNews) – Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim leaders have unanimously condemned the attack near the Finsbury Park mosque, that left one man dead and eight wounded.
Nothing is known about the attacker’s identity, except that he is a 48-year-old white man, who, right after midnight, rammed a van into people leaving late-night prayers at the end of their day of fasting.
After he was immobilised, he was arrested. According to police, he acted alone. Some witnesses had initially said that two other people were in the vehicle and had fled.
Witnesses on the scene said that the suspect shouted “I want to kill all Muslims”. Those who held him waiting for the police, said he asked them to kill him.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) condemned the attack, saying that it 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,” the MCB’s secretary general Harun Khan said.
The Islamic community called on the government to “increase security around mosques urgently,” as this is the last week of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr celebration will take place over the weekend.
In a statement at 1 pm British Prime Minister Theresa May described last night’s attack as an act of “terrorism”, like others that have recently hit the country, due to various forms of extremisms, including “Islamophobia”.
She pledged zero tolerance against extremist and violent speech between people and on the Internet.
Confrontation is growing online between radical Muslims and intolerant Westerners. Conversely, religious communities try to promote respect and solidarity. Throughout the morning, faith leaders have issued statements sharing the sorrow of Muslims.
Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted, “The attack at #FinsburyPark mosque is abhorrent. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim friends and pray for the bereaved and injured”.
Card Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, said he was “appalled at the deliberate attack on people leaving their late-night prayers, as the end of their day of fasting, at the mosque in Finsbury Park. I have assured the leadership of the mosque and the Muslim Welfare Centre of our prayers and support.” The latter is located near the mosque.
“Violence breeds violence. Hatred breeds hatred,” the cardinal added. “Every one of us must repudiate hatred and violence from our words and actions. We must all be builders of understanding, compassion and peace, day by day, in our homes, our work and our communities. That is the only way.”
Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of Britain, spoke similarly. “It is heartbreaking to hear of yet another deadly attack on the streets of London, this time targeting Muslims who had been at prayer. This is a painful illustration of why we must never allow hatred to breed hatred. It creates a downward spiral of violence and terror with only further death and greater destruction.”
“As ever,” he added, “our thoughts and prayers are with those affected and may each of us resolve to respond to this latest tragedy with the same compassion and determination not to be divided, which has defined our society over recent months.”
The Sikh Federation UK equally 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.”