Political leaders must consider what responsibility they might carry in allowing Islamophobia to thrive, a gathering at a London mosque has been told.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid was joined by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at an event in solidarity with the victims of the New Zealand attack.
Some of the names of those killed in Friday’s shootings were read aloud at London Central Mosque, before those present, including schoolchildren, bowed their heads for a minute of silence.
Academic Arzoo Ahmed, a member of the Sunni Muslim community, said words of sympathy and solidarity after such an attack were appreciated, but action was needed.
As Mr Javid looked on, she said: “While solidarity is great it is not enough and we need action.
“So this is a call to our political leaders, our institutions and our media to search deep within the individual and collective conscience, for what responsibility you may carry for the language that you have used and the framing that you have presented to enable such harmful attitudes to thrive.
“Our words and our behaviour matter. We need leadership at the grassroots level to strengthen our communities and we need our leaders to show the leadership to tackle such attitudes within the establishment and across mainstream society.”
Addressing the Home Secretary directly, she added: “I ask the Home Secretary, who has kindly joined us today, to respond to calls for increased spending on the protection of all religious institutions that are at risk, and urgently for mosques.”
Mr Javid said Monday’s gathering was a demonstration of a shared pain and “to show that no faith, no race, no community, will ever be alone”.
He added: “The events that unite us are beyond tragic, but together we represent what is truly great about Britain. An open and welcoming country, that finds strength in its diversity.”
The Most Rev Justin Welby was applauded when he made a commitment to discuss how, through the teaching of an estimated one million children at Church of England schools “we can be more effective in our education to be one people”.
He also pledged that the church will stand with Muslims who are being persecuted, apologising if such solidarity has been lacking in the past.
He said: “For Muslims who are under threat we will be with you, if we have not been with you sufficiently yet, and if we have not, I am so sorry.”
Mr Khan said there was “anger” and “frustration” among young people he spoke to in a roundtable discussion after listening to speakers at the mosque.
He said they had raised concerns about language used by politicians “that could’ve led to some of the behaviour and actions we’ve seen not just in Christchurch but in this country”.
The mayor added that the message from young people to himself, ministers and religious leaders is: “We saw this coming and we still feel scared.”
He said Muslims he has spoken to are supportive of financial support for security for Jewish places of worship and cautioned that additional funds are needed for Islamic places of worship.
Mr Khan said: “What the Muslims who are here are saying is, ‘Don’t take the money away from the Jewish synagogues and the Jewish schools, but we’ve seen the difference that additional financial support can provide to Jewish schools and we think the same sort of support should be given to Islamic places of worship and Islamic ethos schools’.”
He is set to write to Mr Javid on the issue of funding for security for mosques across the country.