There was a feeling of shock, concern but also defiance among Muslims as they gathered for Friday prayers at one of Britain’s largest mosques, hours after a terrorist attack on worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand left 49 dead.
In a terrorist attack in June 2017 Darren Osborne drove into a crowd of worshippers standing on a pavement near Finsbury Park mosque, killing Makram Ali and injuring nine others.
There was a sombre mood inside the building in north London on Friday, after it was revealed that the Christchurch suspect’s manifesto cited a list including the name “Darren Osbourne”. Locals laid bouquets and cards to remember the victims. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Islington council leader, Richard Watts, visited the mosque after Friday’s prayers to give their condolences.
Opinion was divided on whether police and security guards were needed inside mosques after the terrorist attack in New Zealand, with some admitting they were worried for their safety. A handful of police officers stood outside the gates as people arrived for the afternoon prayers.
Benyounes Msaad, who has lived in the area for 40 years, said: “It’s a very sad day, it’s inhumane taking innocent people. We should have security inside the mosque, it could be anyone coming in.
“We don’t discriminate against other religions so anyone can come in. These days you don’t know who they could be, [maybe] having security guards.
“When I saw the video of the attack it was depressing, I wish I didn’t see it. A lot of people probably didn’t come today. I have been keeping an eye out. I hope things are not going to get worse. We want peace.”
Another worshipper, Ahmed, said: “It has never happened here, this is something new. It’s a good idea having police officers here. There is extremism everywhere, trying to divide people, creating problems. We have to show peace, love and react positively.
“Prophet Muhammad said the community is like one body, if one part is feeling pain, then the rest feel pain.”
The attack in Christchurch was the first issue discussed in the sermon by Shaykh Faid Said, who sent a message to New Zealand’s Muslim community to “be strong and be united”.
He added that Muslims were “a resilient community” and would not “change their way of life” by cowering to extremists.
A special prayer service was held in Finsbury Park to remember the 49 victims of the Christchurch attack, who were killed while they attended Friday prayers.
Islam Khan said: “The mosque has security cameras but I don’t feel completely safe in any mosque as anyone can come in and out.
“They should have uniformed security at the front of every mosque.”
Hanna, a finance worker, said mosques should consider employing security guards.
She added: “First it was the Finsbury Park attack and now New Zealand. With the rise in Islamophobia it is important for the Muslim community to feel safe.
“Security measures are called for, especially during busy times like Friday prayers, Eid prayers, Ramadan. These attacks have shaken the community and some may be afraid to attend the mosque. It’s sad because no one should feel unsafe in their place of worship.”
But some worshippers insisted that they felt safe attending their local mosque.
Anas Tezene, an asylum seeker from Syria, said: “People are kind here, it is not dangerous. I feel safe. The society here is welcoming for refugees and immigrants.”
Some Muslims in the area felt there were more deep-rooted problems that needed to be addressed in order to prevent future terrorist atrocities.
Faisal El Hussein, a Canadian who is on holiday in London, said: “This stems from hate brewing up for a long time. It’s gradual.
“You need to catch it at the root. Exposing people to different cultures when they’re young. Have more intercultural interaction. I’m from Toronto and grew up around difficult cultures.
“It’s OK to have friends from your own culture but you have to mingle.”
Hashim Mohammed said along with more security inside mosques, the key was to “unite Muslims and non-Muslims to love each other and to mix”.
He added: “Imams and [other faith leaders] should meet all of the time and communicate. It’s about learning from the experiences of the past.”
Watts, addressing worshippers after the prayers, described the events in Christchurch as an appalling attack.
He said: “I am proud to be your friend and neighbour and look forward to working with you all. We stand with you. Thanks for being Islingtonians.”
Mohammad Kozbar, the chairman of Finsbury Park mosque, said: “We are all united against those cowards whose aim is to divide us and spread hatred, fear and division.”