THE "brutal murder" of a soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday, in a
suspected terrorist attack, had "no place in Islam", the Archbishop
of Canterbury said on Friday.
Drummer Lee Rigby, aged 25, who had been in the 2nd Battalion
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was hacked to death by two men
shouting "Allahu akbar" ("God is great") in Artillery
Street, near Woolwich Barracks, on Wednesday afternoon.
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a local Cub Scout leader, said that one of
the men told her that they had committed the attack "because he's a
British soldier and he killed Muslims". Two men were subsequently
shot and wounded by police. The BBC has reported that one of the
suspects, Michael Adebolajo, "is said to come from a very devout
Christian family but converted to Islam after college".
Speaking to reporters outside the Masjid Umar
mosque in Leicester on Friday, during a visit to the diocese,
Archbishop Welby, who is official patron of the Christian Muslim
Forum, said that people had been "horrified" by the "brutal murder"
of Mr Rigby.
"I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques, and
other faith and civil society groups as well as those of brave
individuals who've done so much to bring our communities together
at this time," he said.
"The strong response from the Muslim Council of Britain and many
other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no
place in Islam. I want to commend very strongly what they're doing
locally and to encourage Christian leaders more widely to do the
same. This is very much a time for communities to come
The Prime Minister said on Wednesday evening that there were
"strong indications" that the attack in Woolwich was a terrorist
incident. After chairing a meeting of the Government's emergency
co-ordination group, COBRA, on Thursday morning, Mr Cameron said:
"The people that did this were trying to divide us. They should
know something like this will only bring us together and make us
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said on Thursday: "Plainly
it was a horrific incident. . . [Everything] I have seen and heard
this morning leads me to conclude two things: one, that those
guilty will be brought speedily to justice; and, secondly, that
Londoners can get on with their normal lives today."
The Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, the
Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich, the Ven. Alastair Cutting,
and the Rector of Woolwich, the Revd Jesse van der Valk, visited
the Woolwich area on Wednesday evening.
St Mary Magdalene's, Greenlaw Street, one of the two churches in
the Woolwich parish, which is near to where the attack took place,
was open on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday afternoon and
Bishop Ipgrave said on Thursday morning that he had been in
touch with Woolwich Barracks, and had spoken to people outside a
mosque. They were "deeply shocked and a little apprehensive about
how this story will be presented".
He said: "There are historically, and, at present, very strong
relations between different faith communities and the community in
general. It is a very diverse bit of south-east London; there is a
resilience which I hope will see us through, and I hope won't be
exploited by people trying to stir up hatred, which is exactly what
the perpetrators of this attack were trying to do."
Bishop Ipgrave said that the attack had been watched by many
passers-by because it had taken place on a busy road during a busy
time of day. "It was such a shocking event that it has taken time
for the reality to sink in. . . There is a lot of sadness and
Close friends of Mr Rigby attended a service of prayer at St
Mary Magdalene's on Thursday evening, which was also attended by
the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, as well
as Bishop Ipgrave and other local clergy.
Speaking on Friday, Mr van der Valk said: "We felt privileged to
have them there. They were carrying flowers, which they were going
to put at the spot where their friend died."
Mr van der Valk said that people in Woolwich were "very upset
that a soldier has been killed. [Woolwich] Barracks are very much
part of the life of our town; they've been here 350 years. We are
very sad and upset. It is going to leave a lasting mark on the
town, and that's something we'll have to cope with in the days to
Mr van der Valk said that police officers and members of the
media had been stationed outside his rectory, which was "literally
100 metres" from the site of the attack.
He attended a meeting of faith leaders on Thursday evening at
Woolwich Town Hall, hosted by the Leader of Greenwich Council, Cllr
Chris Roberts, and the Metropolitan Police Borough Commander for
Greenwich, Richard Wood. "I raised the issue that I thought young
people in the area were concerned, and to some extent frightened,
because there's uncertainty about what's happened and a little bit
of fear about this sort of thing happening again."
Mr van der Valk said that the police had offered assurances that
they would do everything that they could to ensure that "extreme
right-wingers", such as the English Defence League (EDL), did not
cause trouble. On Wednesday evening, about 200 EDL supporters had
gathered in Woolwich, chanting anti-Muslim slogans, and throwing
bottles at police.
Faith leaders were quick to condemn the attack and to dissociate
it from Islam. A statement from the Faiths Forum for London, which
includes Christian and Muslim leaders, said: "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."
The Muslim Council of Britain said that the "truly barbaric act"
had "no basis in Islam, and we condemn this unreservedly". The
Chief Imam of North Manchester, Jamia Mosque, and the
Secretary-General of the World Islamic Mission, Allama Qamaruzzaman
Azmi, said: "These people are not Muslims. There is nothing Islamic
about them. They are simply pure evil. They have no place in our
society. No place in our religion. And they must not be allowed to
carry out such horrific attacks."
Faith leaders in Leeds, Manchester, Peterborough, and Sheffield,
including C of E bishops, also issued statements on Thursday,
condemning the murder.
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said on
Thursday: "Individuals who commit such crimes in the name of
religion or politics stand at odds with the compassionate shared
values which we stand for as a society. Such acts aim to divide our
communities, and I call upon everyone to remain calm and
On Friday, a book of condolence was opened at Leicester
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, on Thursday
questioned why it was "being deemed a terrorist attack". He wrote: "If someone did something similar whilst
shouting about being Jesus, would it be seen as criminal or
terrorist? And would the EDL response - to attack mosques - be
paralleled by attacks on churches by angry atheists? And would
anyone try to legitimise or explain it, rather than simply condemn
The Revd Lorna Hood, the Moderator of the General Assembly of
the Church of Scotland, which is meeting this week, led prayers on
Thursday morning for Mr Rigby's family.