Spotlight: Mosque attack strikes new fear into heart of multi-cultural London

2017-06-19 11:30:47 GMT2017-06-19 19:30:47(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Larry Neild

LONDON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- It's what the authorities in the British capital have feared, a revenge attack in response to the two recent terror attacks.

It was a barmy summer night in London, a city famed for its acceptance of people from all corners of the world, whatever their religions or beliefs, when terror struck early Monday. A large crowd, happily chatting away, were dispersing after enjoying food that marked the end of their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Minutes later, there was chaos as a van ploughed into them, killing one and injuring ten others. All of the victims were Muslims. Witnesses described the attacker as a white man with black hair.

The driver, according to witnesses, deliberately was driving the large van into a crowd of worshippers leaving a mosque, screaming "I want to kill all Muslims".

The recent attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge saw Muslim extremists using the same tactic, vehicles as a weapon of death.

Those attacks have seen an increase in reported hate crimes in London, according to the Metropolitan Police, but nothing as serious as Monday's terror attack.

What happened is in sharp contrast to the aftermath of last week's tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, which saw Londoners, of all faiths and none, of all skin colors, coming together in a massive response of togetherness and support.

The Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was one of the first Monday to condemn the attack outside the Finsbury Park Mosque. He urged Londoners remain calm and vigilant.

"We don't yet know the full details, but this was clearly a deliberate attack on innocent Londoners... While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect." Khan wrote on his social media site.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick spoke of London waking up to the news of another appalling attack on the city.

"My thoughts are with the family of the man who has died and with all those who were injured," she said.

The police chief added: "London is a city of many faiths and many nationalities. An attack on one community is an attack on all of us. Terrorists will not succeed in their attempts to divide us and make us live in fear."

She said extra officers are on duty in the area to help reassure the local community. "Communities will see additional officers patrolling across the city and at Muslim places of worship. We are working as hard as we can to protect all our communities, and we will not be defeated."

The Guardian newspaper commented Monday: "Among Britain's Muslim communities, there have been fears that they are targeted for Islamophobic hate crimes and that the authorities do not take such incidents seriously enough."

The Muslim Association of Britain condemned what it described as an evil terror attack, and called on police to increase security around mosques.

The association said in a statement: "We call on politicians to 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."

Omer El-Hamdoon, the association's president, called on all Muslims to be extra vigilant following "these hateful Islamophobic attacks, and to be cautious".

The attack was also condemned by the Sikh Federation in Britain and the European Jewish Congregation.

"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. Hate and terror must be stamped out by directly confronting all those who promote an ideology and philosophy based on hate and terror," said Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, condemned this attack which was seen as " attempt to escalate tensions in the UK".

"An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions and all people and faiths must stand together against terror," said Kantor.

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of Finsbury Park mosque, said the shocking new terrorist attack was 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," he 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," he added.

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