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Solidarity with UK Muslims — via a marker pen

22 March 2019


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with religious leaders at Regent’s Park Mosque, in London, on Tuesday

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with religious leaders at Regent’s Park Mosque, in London, on Tuesday

HATRED of Muslims is a blasphemy against Christ, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week.

During an interfaith gathering at Regent’s Park Mosque in London on Tuesday, Archbishop Welby described the killings in Christchurch as “monstrous”.

In contrast, he said, “The response of New Zealand, all its people, with Muslims in the forefront, is beautiful and inspiring.

“What they say to each other, we say to you: those who attack Muslims in this country or elsewhere attack every human being. You are not ‘the other’: you are us. Those who act out of hate for Muslims act out of hate for all here. Those who acted or supported the actions in New Zealand attack all of us.

“For British Muslims who are feeling under threat, we are with you. Hatred of Muslims denies and blasphemes Christ. Those who co-opt Christian language and history for hatred commit blasphemy.”

He pledged to work with bishops to “see how we can be more effective in visible signs of togetherness”, and to put this “higher up the agenda in my own actions and words”. The attacker “wanted to create a war against Islam”, he said, but “generated human unity”.

ANDREW GRAYSTONEAndrew Graystone in Levenshulme

Among those who demonstrated such solidarity this week was Andrew Graystone, a Christian communications adviser, who, on the morning after the attack, set off for the Madina mosque in Levenshulme, Manchester, carrying a sign that read: “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.” The gesture prompted messages from around the world.

“It was almost entirely spontaneous,” he said this week. “I woke up on Friday morning, heard the news from Christchurch, and I thought, how would that feel for Muslims in our community in South Manchester? I thought maybe I could go and stand outside the mosque and smile, then thought I would look a bit of an idiot; so I grabbed an old piece of card — an old filing hanger — and a marker pen and scribbled a little note on it and went outside.”

Some who saw him afar were wary, he said: “You could see some people thinking, ‘Oh dear, is this some kind of protest?’ But, once they saw this little sign, there was more warmth.”

After a photo of his gesture went online, generating millions of shares, messages began pouring in. He estimated that he had had more than 50,000 to date. Many were in languages that he did not understand, from as far afield as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Only two or three dozen had been negative, he said. . .

“One of the things I have discovered is that there is a low undercurrent of fear among many Muslims in the UK and around the world, like a quiet humming in the ears, but it is constant.”

This week, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced an increase in the annual funding for protecting places of worship (News, 25 November 2016) to £1.6 million: double the amount expended last year. A new £5-million fund will be opened to provide security training. So far, more than a third of grants under the places of Worship Protective Funding scheme have been awarded to mosques.

“I know many Muslim communities are feeling vulnerable and anxious,” Mr Javid said. “But they should seek comfort from knowing we are doing everything to tackle hate and extremism.”

A charity established to counter Islamophobia, Tell Mama, announced that, for the next six months, it would provide security advice to mosques when requested, on a national basis.

“People can walk straight into a mosque without any question or challenge where necessary, and this needs to come to an end,” a press release said.

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