Religious leaders call for unity at rally after suspected antisemitic attack in Highbury Corner
PUBLISHED: 14:01 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:10 28 February 2019
People of all faiths and none assembled outside Highbury & Islington station last night to protest an alleged antisemetic attack against a 69-year-old man the previous afternoon.
The rally was hastily called by campaign group Stand Up To Racism, after reports an elderly man was asked if he was Jewish before being punched repeatedly in the face, leaving blood “pouring” from his mouth, in Highbury Corner.
A 44-year-old man was arrested in connection to the attack and detained under the Mental Health Act. Police yesterday confirmed they are investigating it as a hate crime.
“I find myself in this position sadly too often,” Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE told those at the vigil.
“My parents came to this country in the in the 1930s to escape the barbarity of the Nazis in Austria.
“They came as children to find refuge, to be in a civilised country which respects minorities, which deals with people in a humane and decent manner.”
He accused the government of using antisemitism as a “political football to attack members of the opposition” and called on people to “rise above political differences and find the core of our humanity”.
Rabbi Gluck, president of Shomrim, in Stamford Hill, added: “I am constantly told about antisemitic graffiti on the wall; verbal attacks on Jews; people running after children with machetes saying; ‘We will do to you what Hitler did to you’; people who throw stones against houses of Jews in 2019.”
The chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, said: “Our thoughts and our solidarity are with our Jewish community here and elsewhere.
“When they are attacked it is an attack on all communities.
“We will fight, all of us together, to stop this disease that is called racism.
“We don’t want our children to be targeted by people who don’t respect race or colour or background, we shouldn’t allow that.”
Father Gerald King, of Highbury’s St Joan of Arc Catholic parish, also addressed the rally.
He said: “I wanted to show my solidarity with the Jewish community. I was really horrified. [...]
“It’s against comprehension. Our parish just wants to send love to our Jewish brothers and sisters and members of the Muslim community.
“Antisemitism, racism, all of these are evil – they are nothing to do with faith. “Together we must fight evil with love.”
The celebrated author, poet and activist, Michael Rosen, said the community needed to stand together against an emboldened far-right threat both at home and abroad.
He told protestors: “We are dealing with an extreme danger at this moment and we have to face it with the only way we know, which is unity in action.”
Mr Rosen said his parents fought against Oswald Mosley and British Union of Fascists at the Battle of Cable Street, Whitechapel, in October 1936.
He urged Islington to remain united in the “face of hate”.
David Rosenberg, of the Jewish Socialist Group, expressed alarm at the rise in antisemitism and other hate crimes.
He said: “The amount of racism in any one time is not consistent, it rises and falls and is at its highest when people are feeling the pinch of economic problems. When people are looking for someone top blame. And demagogues like Tommy Robinson [real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon] play on fears and stir up hate.
“And what gives those racists confidence is the hostile environment created against all minority communities by this government.”
Islington’s transport chief, Cllr Claudia Webbe, said: “As a local councillor in Islington I want to bring some solidarity to the victim of this violent attack, and to those who witnessed and ran towards danger. [...]
“We are a borough of great pride when it comes to our diversity in terms of languages, faiths and our different ethnic backgrounds.”
She added that the Islington Council celebrates the borough’s diversity and won’t “tolerate antisemitism, racism or abuse of any kind”.