Friday marked one week since the horrific terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand which left 50 innocent people brutally murdered by a white supremacist from Australia. On the day of the attack I contacted all the mosques in Bermondsey and Old Southwark and on Friday visited the Harper Road mosque: the Baitul Aziz Masjid.
This is the biggest of the local mosques and has a huge local following, as well as many people joining Friday prayers who work in our community but live elsewhere. Members of its committee were in touch last week to outline their concerns about potential attacks. I raised this with our Borough Commander and was glad to see local police in attendance on Friday. I asked others to attend with me and was pleased to be joined by ward councillor and mosque member, Sirajul Islam, as well as other councillors and local Party members. We went to help reassure those at prayer that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them, share their grief, will not be divided by hate, and recognise the contribution they make as part of our vibrant local community.
I listened to the Imam preach and I spoke before prayers as well as distributing a letter outlining how people can report any potential problems, hate crime or Islamophobia. The Imam spoke of how, wherever we live in the world, we are all brothers and sisters. He emphasised that ‘good Muslims are good neighbours’ and the importance of working together to achieve the best results for all. The Imam even asked attendees to pray for the attacker of the Christchurch mosques. I am not sure everyone is so forgiving, but hearing him react in that way in the face of great division and the re-emergence of Fascism and hate, was very powerful.
It was a poignant message of peace at a moment of serious volatility in parliament and across society, and one we might all do well to reflect upon. In the meantime, I will be engaging further with all the local mosques. Let me know if you’d like to participate.