London’s Faith Communities Respond to Woolwich Attack
Please see below a joint statement from representatives of London’s religious groups on today’s attack in Woolwich:
Syed Yousif Al Khoei OBE (The Al Khoei Foundation)
Acharya Modgala Duguid (The Amida London Buddhist Centre)
Ifath Nawaz (The Association of Muslim Lawyers)
Canon Guy Wilkinson CBE (Church of England)
The Ven Dr Paul Wright (Church of England)
Jasvir Singh (The City Sikhs Network)
Dilowar Hussain Khan (The East London Mosque)
Dr David Muir (Faith in Britain)
Dr Deesha Chadha (The Hindu Forum of Britain)
Sellappah Yogarajah (The Hindu Council UK)
Dr Natubhai Shah MBE (The Jain Network)
Revd Kumar Rajagopalan (The London Baptist Association)
The Ven Bogoda Seelawimala (The London Buddhist Vihara)
Adrian Cohen (The London Jewish Forum)
Yusef Noden (Al Manaar, The Muslim Cultural and Heritage Centre)
Dr Kishan Manocha (The National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is in the UK)
Rosalind Miller (The Network of Sikh Organisations)
Jon Dal Din (Roman Catholic)
Fr Gerard Mitchell (Roman Catholic)
Captain Nick Coke (Salvation Army)
Malcolm Deboo (The Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe)
Following the statement, the FFL was invited to participate in a multifaith commemoration event with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Click here for pictures from the event and see below for a full transcript, including contributions from FFL Co Chairs, Leonie Lewis and Guy Wilkinson. Further below, you will find a series of clippings from the press about our statement. As others tried to sew division, we felt that it was our mission to sew unity. If you spot any other places where this was mentioned, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRANSCRIPT OF RECEPTION
AT THE HUGH CUBITT CENTRE, LONDON
ON FRIDAY, 24TH MAY 2013
Transcript of the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech
Can I thank you all very, very much for being here and can I thank, particularly, everybody at the Hugh Cubitt Centre, all the volunteers here, everyone from the Peabody operation. You’ve helped us to organise this at very, very short notice indeed.
It was a suggestion made to me by friends of mine in the London Muslim community just yesterday, that we should get together at a time of obviously heightened anxiety, given the horrific events in Woolwich. And to be able to gather together like this, given how busy everybody is, is a real tribute to everybody at the centre, and indeed to all of you.
We are represented here in all of the wonderful diversity that we know is modern London: different political parties, different faiths, different communities, representatives from the armed services, from the police. I really am very, very grateful to you all for being here. And I hope that – in fact I know that I speak on behalf of everybody here when I say that my heart goes out and my thoughts are with the family and the friends of Drummer Lee Rigby, who as so brutally and savagely killed in Woolwich.
I think in many ways, the fact that we’ve come together is much more important than what anyone’s actually going to say at the event because the fact that we’re here together from so many different directions, from so many parts of the diversity that is London is a – sends out a message.
It sends out a very, very simple message of hope over fear, of community over division and that is immensely important. I think that you’ve done all of that and that by coming together in that way, by sending out that clear signal, you really have provided a great service to all of the communities who are asking themselves searching questions in London and across the country today.
Because let’s be clear. People who inflict such random, savage violence in the name of some entirely warped ideology or some entirely perverted concept of religion in the way that we have seen on our television screens – which has been made all the more unsettling I think, because the individuals concerned dressed, spoke, appeared to all intents and purposes like so many other young Londoners that we might come across every day of the week.
Let’s be under no illusion. What they want, of course, is to sow that corrosive seed of fear and division. What they want is for governments and the authorities to overreact in their immediate reaction. What they want is for communities to turn inwards and away from each other. What they want, in short, is to spread fear.
Fear is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and when fear takes root, all of us as individuals, we will avert our gaze from someone who we might be fearful of, who we weren’t before. We might cross the street away from an individual who we’re not so sure about. We might worry about our children and about our families in a way that we haven’t done before.
It has a very, very corrosive effect on every part of our lives and we have a choice. We have a choice to either allow that powerful corrosive feeling of fear to seep into every second and minute and hour of our lives or we can make a choice that we’re not going to change our behaviour. We’re not going to disrupt normal life. We’re going to continue our life as before. We’re going to continue to reach out to each other. We’re going to continue to look people in the eye. We’re going to continue to be the diverse community that we are, and you have made that choice by coming to this event.
London has made that choice by celebrating this kind of event and it has shown once again how unbeatable London is in the face of this attempt to sow fear, sow division and sow mutual suspicion in our community. So I want to pay genuine tribute, to each and every one of you for making that choice. It is a positive choice and is the most powerful dignified reply and rejection of what we saw and what we heard on Wednesday in Woolwich.
Finally, before I ask the Deacon and others to speak for themselves, I want to pay special tribute to those amongst you who are leaders and spokespeople of our Muslim communities. The fact that all of you who’ve spoken out so very clearly and so very cogently and so very quickly to reject it utterly. As the Prime Minister quite rightly said, what we heard from these two individuals was a total unqualified betrayal of Islam, a religion of peace was being distorted, turned upside down and inside out, perverted in the cause of an abhorrent and violent set of intentions from those individuals.
As I heard from someone in a discussion we just had earlier this morning, terrorism has no religion because there is no religious conviction that can justify the kind of arbitrary, savage, random violence that we saw on the streets of Woolwich. So thank you for speaking out as forcefully as you have done. Thank you for speaking out as clearly as you have done for a great salvation religion, for your faith, and for the communities in which you live and in which you lead.
And in that spirit I would like to simply conclude by repeating a verse from the holy Quran, verse 32, chapter five. If anyone kills a human being, it shall be as though he killed all mankind, whereas if anyone saves a life it shall be as though he saved the whole of mankind.
Thank you very much.
Thank you Nick. Can I begin my few words by a greeting used by Britain’s almost three million Muslims every day to Muslims and non-Muslims and by the world’s two billion Muslims every day to Muslims and non-Muslims; it’s the greeting of peace, ‘As-Salāmu Alaykum.’ And can I also begin by commending the leadership shown over the last couple of days by our Prime Minister, David Cameron; by the leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband; by London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson and by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. Allahu Akbar.
Now, I deliberately used Allahu Akbar because the words ‘Allah is the greatest’ are used when you’re praising a good achievement. And just like over the last ten years we’ve appropriated the flag back from – the Union Jack – back from the far right. We’ve appropriated back St George’s flag from the far right. For those of you who are Muslims, don’t allow these people to hijack our religion or the words ‘Allah is the greatest,’ Allahu Akbar.
And I say this also by way of introduction; today in mosques around London and the UK, this weekend in synagogues around the country, in churches on Sunday, in gurdwaras and temples this week, prayers will be said for Drummer Lee Rigby, his two-year-old son, Jack, and his family and friends. And our thoughts and prayers should be with drummer Lee Rigby’s family and friends.
And as Nick said, all right thinking people – Muslim or non-Muslim – have been unequivocal in their condemnation of these two men who did what they did on 22nd May 2013 in the greatest city in the world. And less than a year ago we were celebrating the achievements of this fantastic city with the Olympic games, celebrating and shouting, ‘Go Mo, go’ as he won his second gold medal in that Olympic stadium, kept safe by the armed services.
The armed services, who in the First World War had 1.3 million members of the Commonwealth serving for the allies, many of them Muslims. In the Second World War 2.6 million people from the Commonwealth, many Muslims serving then. Today many Muslims are serving in the armed services. And the Olympics rescued from the private company, Nick, that had been asked to do the security – it was a Labour contract by the way – by the armed services.
And so I end my few words by saying this: you tell me, where else in the world, where else – what other city could you have on stage members of all the major faiths of the world, with the armed services, talking and uniting as one city. Don’t allow what happened the other day to divide us. Don’t allow the EDL or other far right groups divide us. Leave today with strength in the belief that the values we have are far stronger than the hatred from those two men.
God bless you, thank you.
LORD TARIQ AHMAD
Well, good morning ladies and gentlemen and like Sadiq I would also extend the words of the Muslim greeting of As-Salāmu Alaykum, peace be upon all of you.
And for those who don’t know me, perhaps I am not as famous in terms of the screams as my previous two speakers, but I’m Lord Tariq Ahmad. I’m a Conservative member of the House of Lords and a minister for justice and communities in the Lords. And it is a great pleasure actually to be joining as we see unity of purpose and unity of action, that we see unity in terms of our political leadership.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has alluded to the words of the Prime Minister yesterday. And he did at a time when the country needed it most bring a nation together. He showed leadership, he showed direction and he shows that despite our diversity, despite our differences, no matter what faith you are, no matter what your background, no matter who you are or what you do, together we stand united in the condemnation of the most despicable and horrific act, and we must pay tribute to that.
This – the Prime Minister bringing the country together is reflective of what we’ve heard from the Deputy Prime Minister this morning. Nick, you quoted the holy Quran. As you quoted the holy Quran, my mind was cast to that particular verse and its essence. And those who seek to hijack a noble religion such as Islam, they should perhaps for a moment reflect; reflect on the verses uttered by the Deputy Prime Minister – not a Muslim, but someone who in his words has demonstrated the essence of the beauty of the religious scriptures, which in the case of Islam the holy Quran. Not to divide people, but to bring people together. Not to cause destruction or havoc, but to unite people in a message of peace, in a message of universal peace and humanity.
I pay, as a young father myself, particular condolences to a father, to a son, to a husband, to a brother, to a soldier who is a fallen and dear hero to us all. That family is impacted in a way no one can imagine. A man who was going about his business in civil clothes, a man who had defended our nation on the front line – irrespective of what you think, of what our policies may be – be they on foreign shores or elsewhere, nothing – nothing whatsoever in human life, no religion, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said – and Islam is very clear in that as well – justifies the taking of a life, of any innocent life. And if any religion or ideology suggests that, that ladies and gentleman is no religion at all.
I am absolutely delighted to join you this morning. I am heartened by the universal condemnation and the coming together of London. You know, ladies and gentlemen, I’m born and bred as a Londoner; I’m proud of being a Londoner. I remember 7/7 when it occurred. That chill which went through my back, the worry that my family had as to whether I had made it safely. And then when you realise that the perpetrators of that heinous crime were people who thought to present themselves as Muslims, well they were not because they followed a faith which has no base in Islam.
But what it did show, and demonstrate thereafter, is that we stand together, united in our condemnation. And despite our differences and diversity, which is indeed our strength, we are a nation stronger, standing united with a single voice. And I pay tribute to all of you of being part of that incredible city, our incredible nation, which is the United Kingdom; and united, we shall continue to stand.
CAPTAIN AFZAL AMIN
Good morning. My name is former Captain – I could be called Captain Amin – but former Captain Afzal Amin. I left the army five weeks ago and I am speaking today to you not only as a former British officer, but also as a British Muslim. And this attack, I have taken very personally. It could have been me that was attacked; it could have been any one of my many friends who are still serving. It could have been absolutely anybody who just goes onto an army base, buys a t-shirt for charity and walks down the road. So every one of us in this country has been attacked in this absolutely vile and sickening crime.
And my heartfelt condolences go out, to the point of tears to be honest with you, to the family of Lee Drum – of Lee Rigby. He was a young man who, like so many of the finest of our country, step forward and say, ‘On behalf of the nation, we will put on our country’s uniform and we will defend our country’s people and our interests.’
And like Lee, I have been to Afghanistan, three tours; I went to Iraq once. And when you’re over there, and you’re dealing with very real security challenges, you’re doing so as the British Armed Forces in defence of Muslims. The majority of the Iraqis are Muslim; the majority of the Afghans are Muslim. There are significant Christian, Jewish and Sikh minorities in those countries too, but the majority of the people who have benefited from the work of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have been Muslims.
So this narrative that this attacker was ranting at the camera, I, as a British army officer, I as a British Muslim, utterly reject. And we must all work together to reject this narrative of hate. Our country’s greatest strength comes from its diversity. I’ve been to 39 countries, and I choose to live in this country, which I think is the greatest country in the world. And London is undoubtedly the capital of the world, and we should celebrate this diversity, and we should celebrate the fact that, in this room today, we have such a range of people coming together as a unified British people in the face of this terrible attack.
And once again, I would like to congratulate the Government on the lead that it’s taken. We’ve seen so many problems in the last 15 or 20 years, whether it was 9/11 or 7/7, or gangs that are attacking children, or drugs, or whatever else it was, it seems that something else has come along to shock us. And I think with the stance that the Government has taken, and the leadership they’ve shown, we’ve actually found a really good balance in addressing the real concerns that people have but also celebrating the strength of our unity, and coming together at this difficult time.
And that’s really why this country will endure in its unity; we won’t give in to this extremist narrative, whether it comes from one element or another. We will stand united, and I’m sure that the communities will emerge from this stronger and more united than ever before. Thank you very much.
IMAM SHAMS AD DUHA
Mr Clegg, ladies and gentlemen, may peace be on you all, As-Salāmu Alaykum. Firstly, Mr Clegg, thank you very much for meeting us, the community, in such trying times. Of course the Muslim community is united in its condemnation of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby at the hands of someone who is an extremist killer.
I – my background is, of course, I am an Imam, traditionally trained and I want to say conservatively trained as well. And my day job is to run an institute that trains Imams and my regular interaction is with Imams; people who lead thousands and thousands of Muslims in congregations. And I have to say I interact them – given that I train Imams on a very, very regular basis, so I want to take this opportunity, based on that, to really raise some of the concerns of the Muslim community, which are particularly pertinent to what has happened just now.
Firstly, we’re concerned that our establishment – particularly the media and the Government are two parts of it that I want to address – are speaking to two extremes. Either the far right, who is being given too much exposure in the media, which is a major concern. Now, I don’t want to be alarmist but I can tell you all categorically that, no matter how extreme these voices are, they are being heard and people are listening. And that voice is actually being echoed by our youth. And that is a major concern, and that will continue if they can spend ten minutes and be seen by millions.
The second, of course, is the far left and we won’t give into specifics – you can ask me later. And the far left perpetuates the use of terms such as Islamism and Islamist extremism, and as soon as you throw Islam into the term it naturally, naturally, makes a Muslim, a moderate Muslim feel that he is being addressed, that somehow he has something to do with this, or at least he will feel as if this is an accusation against himself or herself. And an onlooker will feel that, well, this is addressing all Muslims. And unfortunately people who are on the far left are perpetuating this type of terminology, and these people are advising our Government.
The Muslim community is by no means monolithic, right? It would be a grave misunderstanding to think so. And, therefore, it is extremely important that our Government is regularly speaking to a representative cross-section of the community, so that the real concerns of the community – in all its diversity – is being communicated up to the Government and the Government’s work and its response to that regard is filtered down to the ground.
Young people are of major concern. They feel that Islam is under attack from everyone, including the Government, the media, the international community etc. We cannot, we cannot – this is not about foreign policy – but we cannot ignore the impact of the sight of death. We cannot ignore it. I’ve said this before to politicians; you can’t ignore this. That has an impact that is very, very real, and that is very, very human. And then it – it switches people’s rationality off; it switches people’s moral compass off. This is something that cannot be ignored.
Muslim leaders and Imams need to be able to address their concerns – the concerns of our youth – without fear of being seen themselves as extremists. As Imams, we need to be able to address issues such as Jihad openly. We need to be able to address areas of our faith that may seem to be in conflict with the more mainstream ideas around the world, but we can’t address them if the risk is to become irrelevant, to be seen as extremist, to be seen as divisive ourselves.
Let us have these conversations so that those conversations don’t end up restricted to the mouths of the extremist and to fringe groups, who then successfully are able to create a narrative that, ‘We are the only people who truly and honestly and openly speak about Islam, and your Imams and your leaders who stand on the pulpits are all hypocrites because they cannot address these issues because of the fact that they are concerned for themselves.’ It’s a very, very basic argument and it is an extremely powerful argument that is used for recruiting young Muslims into extremism.
So, in conclusion the challenge for the Muslim community – and we have to be open about this challenge, and we have to accept this challenge – is to confront extremism more openly. And we have to speak out against it now; I mean, we’ve had – 7/7 has happened and this incident has happened. You know, this man delivered a sermon after – I don’t know if you’ve seen the whole video – he delivered a sermon. It has all of the hallmarks of an Islamic sermon. After committing that atrocity, he finished it off with peace and blessings on the prophet ‘ṣall Allāhu ʿalay-hi wa-sallam’. Many of you probably haven’t seen it, because – The Sun has published the full video. So, it’s something to think about.
So, our challenge is that enough is enough. We can’t just, you know, not speak about this stuff anymore; we have to come out and we have to openly challenge. But then at the same time, the Government’s challenge is to not frustrate us by allowing its engagement with the Muslim community to become a playground for the internal Muslim sectarian game that is played out by advisors and by Muslim leaders who are able to make it up to the – to the upper echelons of politics, so that people are only representing their own groups and their own sects as opposed to representing the whole of the Muslim community.
We mustn’t fall foul of that; it is our responsibility, and it isn’t difficult to work out what the true dynamics of the Muslim community are and therefore identify what is a proper representation of the Muslim community when we – and then based on that, establish what our policies are going to be and what our strategies are going to be. And of course, we will always be around to support the Government in this regard, and thank you very much.
CANON GUY WILKINSON
Good morning and thank you to the Deputy Prime Minister and to all colleagues for coming here this morning. And I want to begin by, in a sense, dedicating this gathering to the memory of Drummer Lee, who was murdered so viciously, and to his family and his friends and his child. That’s the focus that has brought us together.
And then I want to ask, well, who am I – who are we – who are we, here? Well, first of all, we’re human beings; that’s who we are, first of all, beyond and before anything else that we are. And secondly, we all live somewhere – probably in London. We are, in that sense, all local people with neighbours; we all have neighbours, people living around us. And the question is: do we treat those who live around us, who live next door or across the street, as our neighbours? Do we see them as human beings living next door or in the same street, or do we see ourselves primarily as Christians, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Hindu, or of no belief?
And I want to say that our responsibility is always to see those who live around us as neighbours and human beings about whom we wish to discover more and have a relationship. It’s enormously important that our politicians, our leaders, do gather us together like this, but I associate myself particularly with the Imam; I am a parish priest in the Earl’s Court area. I live in a local neighbourhood; so do you. What can we be doing in our local communities to make connections, to make friendships, across the divides that others wish to create?
Now, I’m also co-chair of the Faiths Forum for London, and one of the reasons why we’ve been able to gather so quickly after this terrible event is because these structures of friendship and interrelationship exist. If we did not have those relationships, it would not be possible to have this kind of gathering. So, I want to say to us, but also in the hearing of our politicians, please do encourage the ways in which we can associate ourselves across the kinds of boundaries that others wish to erect.
I want to say one other thing. As a religious person, as a Christian – a Christian leader – and I want to use some religious language, which I guess many of us will recognise, about this act of violence yesterday. I want to say that it is a form of blasphemy. It is a form of blasphemy, and those of us who are religious leaders need to use our religious language to those in our communities. It is a form of blasphemy because it defaces the image of God in whom – whose image we are created. And so the sort of actions that took place yesterday and that we’ve seen elsewhere are at the heart of evil.
We need to be saying and using this kind of language not only – though we do need to use it – the language of society, cohesion, integration. So my message to finish is: let’s be ourselves. Let’s be human beings. Let’s be neighbours. Let’s be involved actively in working together in our localities for our common good, the good of London and the good of our country. Thank you.
My name is Leonie Lewis, and I am the co-chair of Faiths Forum for London. I’m Jewish and I’m a woman; you might not have missed that. I wanted to say a couple of things as I’m the last speaker to close this, this morning.
Firstly, I want to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for creating the opportunity to allow us from different faiths to engage together. And my prayer is that it’s not only a tragedy that at last will encourage the Government to have such conversation. It’s very important for us as interfaith groups that we continue to dialogue, and not just dialogue, but to create action together.
I want us to reflect together on a couple of thoughts. The first thought: as a woman, I just want to applaud the action of the woman yes – the woman on Wednesday who actually went – while everyone else was sending Twitter messages and filming the incident – she actually went to help in a humane and moral action, which I think is deserved of an applause this evening – this morning.
The – the second thing I’d like to say is that, reiterating what Guy mentioned, the power of interfaith action and organisations has brought so many of us here, and I hope that we can use that sort of connectiveness together to go from strength to strength based on what tragedy we’ve suffered together on Wednesday. And it is with that I want to close with a statement written by the Faiths Forum for London, signed by the nine main interfaiths around the table and also the 15 faith organisations that support us.
On this I close: ‘We, as representatives of many of London’s faith communities, deplore the terrible attack that took place on Wednesday in Woolwich. All of our religious – religions exalt the sanctity of human life, and no grievance could justify such a barbaric assault that has cost a young man his life. Terrorism has no place on our streets. We pray for the victim of this attack and his family, and call for all Londoners to stand together at this time. We will redouble our efforts to work for peace, love, understanding and hope.’
Thank you all very much for coming. Thanks to all the speakers and our colleagues on the platform, and all of you particularly for sharing our thoughts in this opportunity to have these shared common concerns, and may we go on together to – to be a people of London who can pride themselves in thinking together, working together as faiths and communities. Thank you.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
Can I – that’s an extremely appropriate note to finish on. Can I thank you all for coming here. Can I just reiterate, I think, on all of our behalves, also, our thanks to the armed services, the police and the intelligence services who do so much every, every day of every week of every month to – to keep us safe. And, in that spirit, I wish you a very good day. Thank you very much.
Faiths unite to condemn Woolwich atrocity
Following the brutal killing of a soldier in Woolwich yesterday, members of the Faiths Forum for London have united to deplore the crime and express their solidarity to respect the sanctity of life and pray for the victim and his family.
Their statement reads: ‘We, as representatives of many of London’s faith communities, deplore the terrible attack that has taken place today in Woolwich.
All of our religions exalt the sanctity of human life and no grievance could justify such a barbaric assault that has cost a young man his life. Terrorism has no place on our streets. We pray for the victim of this attack and his family, and call for Londoners to stand together at this time.
We will redouble our efforts to work for peace, love, understanding and hope.’
The Catholic signatory was Southwark Deacon Jon Dal Din, who is Chaplain to the Caribbean community and the Director of the Diocese of Westminster’s Interfaith Agency.
This week’s Torah portion is called Beha-alot’cha. Translated in the context of our parasha the word means “when you cause the flames to be elevated” or, put more simply, “when you light.” But the term Beha-alot’cha can also to be understood to mean “when you step up.” The shocking events of Wednesday, when a soldier was brutally attacked and murdered in Woolwich in what has been described as a suspected terror attack, remind us of the importance of stepping up, of making our voices heard. Only if the voices of moderates who call out for a just world are heard louder than the voices of extremists, can we hope to leave this world a little more peaceful and just for future generations. Sadly, extremist voices are often given a greater platform. We read primarily about the terrible reactions of other extremists, such as the attempted arson attack on a mosque in Essex, drowning the voice of those who understand that we must stand together, no matter what our faith, or skin colour, or ethnicity, and jointly speak out against terror. So, as you might not read about it in your newspaper, I want to draw your attention to the statement put out by the Faiths Forum for London, of which WLS is a member: “We, as representatives of many of London’s faith communities, deplore the terrible attack that has taken place today in Woolwich. All of our religions exalt the sanctity of human life and no grievance could justify such a barbaric assault that has cost a young man his life. Terrorism has no place on our streets. We pray for the victim of this attack and his family, and call for Londoners to stand together at this time. We will redouble our efforts to work for peace, love, understanding and hope.” Beha-alot’cha – it is time for each of us to step up our efforts!