CHURCH leaders have spoken out in defence of British
Muslims, after a wave of attacks on mosques, in the wake of the
murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, on Wednesday of last
It was reported this week that, since the murder of
Drummer Rigby, almost 200 incidents of Islamophobia had been
reported to the specialist hotline Tell Mama. There have also been
a number of attacks on mosques during the past week, including the
fire-bombing of Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre on Monday.
A statement was issued on Tuesday by Christian
leaders in Lincolnshire, including the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt
Revd Christopher Lowson, describing the attack in Grimsby as a
"horrific and foolish act against a peaceful worshipping community.
. . After our horror at the events in Woolwich and this attack in
Grimsby, we pray for, and encourage, friendship, and not violence,
as the first response to a crisis."
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, described as
"fantastic" the response of the York Mosque to supporters of the
far-right English Defence League, who turned up to protest outside
it on Sunday. People from the mosque offered the protesters tea and
biscuits, and invited them to play football inside. "Tea, biscuits,
and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when
it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views," Dr Sentamu
Christian and Muslim leaders were quick to condemn
the attack on Drummer Rigby, and to dissociate it from
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, co-chair of the Christian
Muslim Forum, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is a patron,
said on Sunday: "The Muslim communities of Britain, like the rest
of the country, are shocked and appalled by the horrific murder in
Woolwich. The murderers chanted slogans during their heinous crime,
claiming to do it in God's name. Far from it. As
our Prime Minister rightly concluded, this is a betrayal of Islam.
Indeed, this is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and
we condemn it utterly and unreservedly."
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 Chief Imam of North Manchester Jamia Mosque and
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
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 of last week: "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 united."
The Senior Minister of State at the Foreign Office
and Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi, told
The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that there had been
concerns in the Government about community unrest after Drummer
Rigby's murder. "Instead, we've come out united, resolute, and
unreserved in our purpose," she said. "We Muslims are revolted by
what we've seen."
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, on
Thursday of last week, questioned why it was "being deemed a
terrorist attack". He wrote on his blog: "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 it outright?"
THE "brutal murder" of a soldier in Woolwich last week, in a
suspected terrorist attack, had "no place in Islam", the Archbishop
of Canterbury said last Friday.
Drummer Lee Rigby, aged 25, of the 2nd Battalion,
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was hacked to death by two men, who
were heard shouting "Allahu akbar" ("God is great") in Artillery
Street, near Woolwich Barracks, on Wednesday of last week.
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, a local Cub Scout leader and
practising Roman Catholic, who approached one of the men in the
street, said that he had 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.
It has since been reported that two suspects, Michael
Adebolajo, aged 28, and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, aged 22, were
raised in Christian families, before converting to militant Islam.
The family of Mr Adebolajo issued a statement on Tuesday expressing
"horror at the senseless killing" of Drummer Rigby; it said that
there was "no place for violence in the name of religion or
Speaking to reporters outside the Masjid Umar mosque
in Leicester last 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 murder of Drummer
"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," Archbishop Welby said.
The "strong response" from organisations such as the
Muslim Council of Britain, which condemned the attack as "truly
barbaric", had "rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in
Islam", the Archbishop said. "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
Later in the day, Archbishop Welby signed a book of
condolence for Drummer Rigby in Leicester Cathedral.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wrote inThe Daily
Telegraphon Monday that there was "no sense in blaming Islam" for
the murder; he described it as "a religion that gives consolation
and enrichment to the lives of hundreds of millions of peaceful
The Prime Minister said on Wednesday evening of last
week 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, the
following 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 stronger."
The Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Michael Ipgrave; the
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 of last week.
St Mary Magdalene's, Greenlaw Street, one of the two
churches in the parish, which is near where the attack took place,
was open on the evening of the attack, and in the days
Speaking on Thursday of last week, Dr Ipgrave said
that he had been in touch with Woolwich Barracks, and had spoken to
people outside a local mosque. They were "deeply shocked and a
little apprehensive about how this story will be
"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."
Dr 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 Drummer Rigby attended a service of
prayer at St Mary Magdalene's on the evening of Thursday of last
week. Speaking last 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."
The service was also attended by the Bishop of
Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, as well as Dr
Ipgrave and other clergy from the area.
The Rector 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 media
reporters had been stationed outside his rectory, which was 100
metres from the site of the attack.
He attended a meeting of faith leaders on Thursday
evening of last week 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
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 of last week,
about 200 EDL supporters had gathered in Woolwich, chanting
anti-Muslim slogans, and throwing bottles at police.
Press reports this week suggested that Drummer
Rigby's funeral might take place at Southwark Cathedral. No
announcement had been made at the time of going to press.