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Islington’s message to extremists: ‘One idiot isn’t going to divide us’

PUBLISHED: 14:33 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:54 19 June 2017

Islington faith and community leaders, including Jeremy Corbyn, gather under the Seven Sisters Road bridge for a press statement. Picture: James Morris

Islington faith and community leaders, including Jeremy Corbyn, gather under the Seven Sisters Road bridge for a press statement. Picture: James Morris

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Islington’s faith and community leaders responded to the Finsbury Park terrorist attack with typical defiance today, declaring: “Our community won’t be divided.”

The scene after the terrorist attack in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, in the early hours of today. Picture: Yui MokThe scene after the terrorist attack in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, in the early hours of today. Picture: Yui Mok

One man died and 10 people were injured after a white van ploughed into people outside the Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road at about 12.20am. An eyewitness described a suspect as shouting: “I want to kill Muslims,”

The Muslim Welfare House styles itself as Islington’s “biggest community centre”, used by thousands every week. It was where Islington Faiths Forum held its “Great Get Together” on Saturday, commemorating one year since the murder of MP Jo Cox.

And Islington Council leader Richard Watts, who spoke at the event, told the Gazette: “This weekend showed the best of Britain and worst of Britain. Saturday’s Great Get Together showed we are a fantastic, united community. This incident shows there are awful people trying to divide us.

“But what gives me confidence is that people from different backgrounds have always got along in Finsbury Park – they have done for donkeys’ years. One idiot isn’t going to change that. Saturday shows the hatemongers won’t win.

Cllr Richard Watts, left, with mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn in Finsbury Park this afternoon. Picture: Victoria Jones/PACllr Richard Watts, left, with mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn in Finsbury Park this afternoon. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA

“We need to support the relatives of the dead and injured. We want to reassure the local community, and that’s why we went to prayers at the Muslim Welfare House [which went ahead as usual]. We will get back on with things as normal.”

The “old man” who died is understood to worship at both the Muslim Welfare House and Finsbury Park Mosque, which is just around the corner.

Speaking outside the mosque in St Thomas’s Road this morning, chairman Mohammed Kozbar told the Gazette: “It’s shocking for all of us. This is a terrorist attack. It’s no different to Westminster, or Manchester, or London Bridge.

“We need to take extra precautions but our message is we will not let extremists win and divide us. We are one community in Islington and have harmony. This will do nothing to stop that. I hope this will bring us closer to each other. We encourage our community to come and pray today as normal.”

'Shocking for all of us': Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar this morning. Picture: James Morris'Shocking for all of us': Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar this morning. Picture: James Morris

The attack happened a short walk away from Islington North MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s home. Just before 12.45pm, he joined Cllr Watts and members of Islington Faiths Forum as Mr Kozbar gave a short speech in Seven Sisters Road. Mr Corbyn, who was pictured earlier looking visibly upset as he visited the scene, is understood to have attended Muslim Welfare House for its afternoon prayers.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May visited Finsbury Park Mosque. After, she said: “The terrible terrorist attack which took place last night was an evil borne out of hatred and it has devastated a community.

“I am pleased to have been here today to see the strength of that community coming together, all faiths united in one desire to see extremism and hatred of all sorts driven out of our society.”

Even as people woke to news of the attack, there was a sense of a community “getting on with things” as suggested by Cllr Watts and Mr Kozbar. Workers used Finsbury Park station, yards away from where the attack happened, as usual. Meanwhile, one staff member from the Seven Sisters Road branch of Greggs handed out free bottles of water in the baking sun.

St Mary’s Church, in Upper Street, this afternoon responded by calling a “vigil for peace”. It starts at 6.30pm.

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