Finsbury Park anniversary: Mosque head calls for National Day against Islamophobia

Britain should hold a national anti-Islamophobia day in memory of the Finsbury Park terror attack, the head of the North London mosque targeted a year ago today has said.

A minute's silence was held to mark the first anniversary of the attack this morning. One man – Makram Ali – died and nine others were injured when a van driven by Darren Osborne rammed into a crowd leaving evening prayers at the Muslim Welfare House in north London on June 19, 2017.

Parliamentarians and civic leaders including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Home Secretary Sajid Javid joined in commemorating the anniversary of the Finsbury Park attack.Harry Farley/Christian Today

Osborne, 48, was jailed for 43 years for murdering the 51-year-old Ali in the attack during Ramadan last year.

Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, told Christian Today June 19 should be commemorated every year as a day against Islamophobia and racism.

'Unfortunately the reasons and the causes of what Darren Osborne did are very much with us today,' he said in an interview after the minute's silence at Islington Town Hall.

'It was a tragic, tragic, really horrible event. It is good to remember that those attacks which happened in Manchester, in London Bridge, in Westminster, are exactly the same.

'Terrorists are terrorists. They have no concept of faith, they have no religion, they have no one agenda and no colour. All of them are the same and they speak the language of hate. Hate is something we hate very much.'

Asked whether the government had done enough to tackle Islamophobia he told Christian Today: 'What I would say is Islamophobia is up. Racism is up. Hate crime is up. The government should do much more to tackle far-right extremism. We can't see the difference between [Islamist activist] Anjem Choudhry and Tommy Robinson. They are, for us, exactly the same. So racism and Islamophobia – it is not really tackled enough.'

He added: 'Islam calls for peace. It is a religion of peace. Islam, or Islamist or Islamism – any word associated with Islam – has to be associated with love and peacefulness because Islam is derived from the word for peace. Terrorism is just a cancer and an illness. Those people claiming to be Muslim terrorists – they are doing it under their own agenda, their own political gains. They can't speak under our name.

'But sometimes this is the language spoken by high profile politicians and some media outlets as well. They link Islam to terrorism. We feel like terrorists are murderers and criminals and they should be treated and called what they are which is just criminals.'

Communities secretary James Brokenshire was at the minute's silence alongside London mayor Sadiq Khan, home secretary Sajid Javid and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry among other police officials and religious and community leaders.

Speaking to Christian Today afterwards Brokenshire said: 'There is no doubt we have a continuing threat from Islamist related terrorism. But it is also the far-right and other forms of terror as well. That is what is our counter-terrorism strategy is all about. It is about approaching this in this unifying response to all forms of threat we face.

He added: 'We are stronger together. We are stronger by being united against that threat and ensuring that there is that sense of understanding between all of us because that is what will make the difference.'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke to those at the minute's silence on Upper Street, Islington, and praised the response of Imam Mohammed Mahoud, imam of the Muslim Welfare House, who was hailed a 'hero' after he protected Osborne from the furious crowd after the attack until police arrived. 

'Imam Mahmoud did a brilliant and wonderful job of making sure that hatred of racism did not turn into violence and anger on the streets that night.

'He helped to ensure that we came together as a community because that is the only response there can ever be to the racism that seeks to divide us,' he said.

Flowers were left outside Muslim Welfare House, the mosque near where the attack took place, on June 19, 2017.Reuters

'Those who seek to divide us by racism... cannot achieve anything,' he added. 'We will be untied forever, they will never divide us.'

In a message to the community Prime Minister Theresa May said it was 'an attack on all of us' and the community's bravery 'sent a message that terrorism will never succeed'.

'Last year's cowardly attack which targeted innocent worshippers leaving Finsbury Park Mosque was an attack on all of us,' she said.

'As with all acts of terrorism, the intention was to divide us. But we will not let this happen.

'And as we remember the victims of this attack, and Makram Ali who tragically lost his life, we should take strength that it is London's diversity and multitude of communities that makes it one of the world's great cities.'