LONDON – British Muslims, Christians, Jews, those of other faiths and those without faith gathered at Regents Park Mosque in London for #ActingInSolidarity, a program put together by the Naz Legacy Foundation in response to the terrorist atrocity in Christchurch.
“Those who attack Muslims in this country or elsewhere attack every human being. For Muslims who are under threat, we will be with you,” said Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Such was the Archbishop’s frustration, and he continued, “Hatred of Muslims denies and blasphemes Christ. Those who co-opt Christian language in history for hatred, the new ideas of a Europe of so-called Christendom to be defended against Islam that is blasphemy.”
The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Ephraim Mirvis continued the theme, “Let us unite in our total revulsion of the brutal murders of innocent people at prayer…. At a time when terrorist are sewing the seeds of discord, fear, hatred and disunity, let us unite.”
Rabbi Mirvis stressed the importance of unity adding, “Let us unite at a time where there are those who are promoting ‘others,’ who are constantly speaking about them and us within our societies. Who highlight all that which is different between us, instead of celebrating that which we share and that which we have in common.”
Words of comfort were also spoken by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
“No one should feel unsafe when practicing their religion. Muslims, Christians and Jews, coming together, to unite against far right extremism and terrorism,” he said.
While these words are refreshing and important, they do not reflect the reality of the everyday-lived experience.
After sharing details of a verbal assault by someone sat alongside her at an event, British Muslim Arzoo Ahmed observed, “The climate of xenophobia, hate, demonization of the other, dehumanization, and the fueling of these which has taken place across the different layers of our society is apparent.”
Esmat Jerat from the Patchwork Foundation added, “We don’t just need your messages of condolences and statements of support, what we do need is action. We need our rights to be defended. We need for them to be a recognition of the fact that Islamaphobia is real.”
Imam Mehmood of Regents Park Mosque shared a historical example of the Alliance of Fudul, “This was an alliance formed before the advent of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. A covenant taken between the noble men of Makkah, men of principle and justice, a promise to protect those that came for sanctuary and trade, from harm and injustice. The Prophet said that if such an alliance were to be made now, he would join it, regardless of the faith of those who establish it.”
Speaking after the event, Sioban Benita, the Lib Dem candidate for the Mayor of London said, “It was fantastic to see faith leaders from all faiths come together at such short notice, and people of no faiths too. And I think just those messages that we can all make a difference. We can all stand up to discrimination.”
“We can all call out casual racism wherever we see it. And we can all start by talking to our children about these things as well. That clear message that we are all the same, we are all human. If you attack one of us, you attack all of us. And I’m delighted that we have gathered here and that in London we are leading the way, celebrating diversity in this city.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Councilor Humaira Ali, “The Archbishop of Canterbury nailed it. It was amazing that he stood up and he called out things that are now declared blasphemy, and that is so powerful. And I’m speechless.”
And Hina Bokhari, also a Councilor chimed in, “I’m incredibly moved but also really proud of London right now. We’ve met together in London, the most diver, most multi-cultural city in the world. But I’m more proud now because I have seen that we can act in solidarity with each other. Different faiths, different backgrounds, people who have religion or none, who know that together we can make a change. And there will be action. It’s not just talk. There are people now in this room who will act.”
Actions begin with the right words
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said, “The events that unite us are beyond tragic, but together we represent what is truly great about Britain. An open and welcoming country that finds strength in its diversity.”
Whatever changes are needed, whatever action is required to improve the safety of all people, irrespective of faith, wherever they are in the world, everything begins with intentions, followed by words.
Jo Kelly-Moore, the current Archdeacon of Canterbury in Kent UK, previously Dean of Auckland, New Zealand said, “As you gather we will also rise to light a candle and pray with you. We continue to pray for our slain injured neighbors. Members all of our land, New Zealand.”
“The tragedy that occurred in Christchurch on Friday was a despicable a cowardly act that sought to assert the supremacy of one race over others. It was an act that sought to create fear and division.
“We utterly reject what that terrorist sought to impose. We chose to respond with sympathy and compassion for our Muslim brothers and sisters. To express our solidarity with them and to show that hate will never win,” Kelly-Moore added.