The attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque was a disgusting act of terrorism which should be condemned by all right-thinking people writes Pat Harrington, Director of the Third Way think tank.
One man died (though it is not yet clear that this was as a result of the attack) and at least 10 were injured when a white van was deliberately driven into Muslim worshippers leaving the mosque shortly after midnight.
The terrorist, named as Darren Osborne, who drove the white van was detained by the crowd until police arrived. He is now in custody. Mr Osborne, who has had mental health issues, appears to have acted alone.
Worshippers were attending Ramadan night prayers at Finsbury Park mosque and the attack happened just yards away outside the Muslim Welfare House.
Witness Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi said he was among a group of people helping an elderly Muslim man who had collapsed when the van swerved towards them.
He said: “He was screaming, he was saying: ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims, I’m going to kill all Muslims’. He was throwing punches.
“Then we managed to get him on the floor. Then he was saying: ‘Kill me, kill me.’ I said: ‘We are not going to kill you. Why did you do that?’
“He wouldn’t say anything.”
Mr Saleh Alamoudi added: “When he went into the [police] van he made gestures, he was laughing.”
The attack may have been perceived ‘retaliation’ for earlier attacks in London Bridge, Westminster and Manchester by reactionary terrorists perverting Islam to justify their crimes.
I think it’s vitally important that we don’t descend into a cycle of tit for tat violence. It’s important that we all understand that the actions of twisted individuals, of any flavour, don’t represent any community or political strand. We all need to work to isolate and argue against anyone in our communities seeking to sow division or fuel hatred.
It’s important also that our media and politicians respond to events with appeals with reason rather than emotional or populist commentary. Some of the mainstream media as well as more extreme elements on the UK Right have acted in an incredibly irresponsible way in their generalised and ill-informed remarks about Muslims which have sowed division and hatred. I’m a strong supporter of freedom of expression but I also think that this right should be used responsibly. I have deep reservations about some of the language used by Paul Golding of Britain First, Tommy Robinson of Rebel Media and Nigel Farage to name just a few. Likewise what passes for the ‘leadership’ of the British National Party who gave an ill-considered and defensive response to the terrible events at Finsbury Park, Manchester, London Bridge and Westminster..They should consider and think before they speak, far more than they appear to.
Yes, we are angry about those whotwist Islam and use terror against us. We should recognise the growing Muslim support for rejection of these evil people and their views on every level. We also need to understand that Muslims work with us, trade with us and live alongside us in general harmony. They have very similar concerns, in most cases, to our own. Where views may differ, for example on Gay rights, we should understand that it took the indigenous population many years to arrive at a settled, progressive view. It may take time for all Muslims to make that journey. It will also require honest and open debate.
Direct dialogue between the different strands of Muslim opinion and those who hold critical views of Islam is something I believe would help. We need to talk frankly about the tensions between some Islamic beliefs and our modern, secular society. That conversation needs to happen in a spirit of goodwill where everyone recognises that we all have a stake in ensuring a happy, safe and prosperous country. Few want to bequeath their children a festering conflict.
Prior to the Finsbury Park attack people were coming together in a positive spirit. We must regain that. It’s the spirit and defiance of the concert in Manchester that shows the way. It’s the restraint shown by Muslim worshippers in restraining and handing over their attacker to the Police that points to the moral and considered way to deal with these terrorists. It’s the fact that the overwhelming majority of British people don’t blame every Muslim for the actions of a twisted few that shows the power of commonsense and decency. We can beat the terrorists together by asserting our many shared values and seeking greater contact and understanding between communities. The siren calls of the extremes must be countered by the still, calm voice of alll those who truly have the interests of our country at heart.