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Muslim community should stage rally to show opposition to terror, says Board president

Jonathan Arkush suggests every UK mosque should hold protest against 'perversion of Islam'

    "Turn to love" messages from Muslim men and women following the London Bridge attack

    On a warm Saturday evening three men drove a van on London Bridge as a prelude to an orgy of violence in which they ran down and stabbed dozens of people who had been enjoying a night out in London with friends. Seven died, closely followed by the terrorists themselves – shot by police within minutes of the start of their murder spree.

    The questions we all ask ourselves after each terrorist atrocity is "why" and "where will this end?" Extremists have no realisable objectives except to sow division in British society and to undermine confidence in democracy. Theirs is a nihilistic death cult in which enjoying a drink on a night out is somehow sinful and depraved, yet butchering people with a kitchen knife is a righteous act. 

    Ironically, what stands out from the London and Manchester outrages are the acts of compassion and bravery. In Manchester taxi drivers gave free rides to concert-goers who were stranded, people offered strangers a place to sleep and social media was flooded with stories of kindness. In London unarmed members of the public confronted knife-wielding terrorists, with bottles, chairs and even their bare hands, delaying them long enough to allow terrified bypassers to run to safety. We will not forget their courage or that of the unarmed police officers who ran towards danger when everyone else was fleeing for their lives.

    I have no doubt that that the vile terrorists responsible for these attacks are not representative of British Muslims.  I have held many meetings with Muslims around the country since my election two years ago, including an extended visit to Bradford where I met community leaders and held a question and answer session at a strictly observant Muslim secondary school. 

    The people I met have been intelligent, compassionate and emphatic in rejecting violence and our two faiths have much in common. So it is time now for the diverse Muslim communities of the UK to stand up and be counted - to go beyond mere condemnation. I believe they need to stage a huge rally of their own in a prominent location such as Trafalgar Square.  Muslim religious and secular leaders must make the point loudly and publicly that these attacks are a perversion of Islam and the attackers will be liable to be punished after death and not rewarded in heaven. Every British mosque should be holding its own protest against terrorism, proclaiming Not in our Name.

    With a unified will and with the outpouring of love and kindness to those caught up in the violence that we have seen from everyone regardless of faith or ethnicity, our values of common decency, humanity and tolerance will always prevail over mindless murder committed by individuals who are truly godless.
     

    Jonathan Arkush is president of the Board of Deputies

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