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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Communities unite to fight hate crime and promote understanding at Islamic festival

Tuesday 2 April saw the coming together from representatives of a range of faiths, community leaders and politicians in an event aimed at promoting unity and understanding.

The event took place at Finsbury Park Mosque, working together with Muslim Welfare House and supported by Islamic Relief UK.

The speakers were invited to talk at a Ramadan community street Iftar. Iftar is the break of the meal eaten by Muslims at sunset to break their fast during the period of Ramadan.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, where Muslims fast for around thirty days, and is a time to reflect and re- connect with God.

The event is the latest Iftar Street Party at the Mosque since it was first started in 2017, in response to a terror attack in the Finsbury Park area. The event is designed to unite communities to show solidarity against such appalling hate crimes.

Islamic relief, who helped support the event, commented:

“This called for the coalescent of communities to silence hatred and empower harmony and resilience, providing a platform to stand in solidarity with hope”.

Talking with The Asian Standard, Islamic Relief UK’s head of comms, Shazia Arshad, explained more about the event:

“The street Iftar in Finsbury Park brings together the entire local community to celebrate Ramadan and the spirit of unity that marks this special month. So many communities across the country are struggling this Ramadan, whether that be due to the cost-of-living crisis or the emotional toil of Gaza. The iftar at Finsbury Park was a moment for everyone to come together and find strength in the power of the collective.”

The event showed great diversity, with a range of different faiths represented.

“The diverse speakers at the iftar were a brilliant example of how all faiths and community leaders can work together to support one another. When times are tough it’s our neighbours and local community that can help get us through. The speakers all shared their hopes and visions for a united community in the local area and their wishes to offer support to those who need it most.”

Shazia also gave her response to the recent tragic deaths of aid workers this week: “The devastating killing of aid workers on Monday is extremely distressing. Over the last 6 months more than 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza, making the region one of the most dangerous places in the world to deliver aid. We desperately need a permanent ceasefire to ensure that aid can be delivered safely to those most in need.”

Delivering a speech at the event was Jeremy Corbyn, who previously served as leader of the Labour Party from 2015 to 2020 and is currently MP for Islington North.

“I think the annual street Iftar is a fantastic idea. It shows the strength of this Mosque, the way it survives and thrives and does so much good in the community.

It’s that spirit that has supported people, fed people, and given people support in their lives when hope is difficult.”

Talking with The Asian Standard, Mr Corbyn outlined his views further:

“I wanted to help amplify the message of peace that was given by everybody that spoke tonight. Peace around the world, but of course an end to the bombing in Gaza and to call for a ceasefire.”

The Asian standard also asked for his view on the recent tragic killing of aid workers in an airstrike in Gaza.

“It’s absolutely terrible that people that had gone to Gaza to help should now join the other 32,000 that have been killed in Gaza. To bomb civilian targets such as schools and hospitals, and now people that are delivering civilian aid is absolutely disgusting and disgraceful.”

In the interview Mr Corbyn also gave his view on events such as the Street Iftar being important in order to stop hate crime.

“I do and in our event this evening, the police made the point about hate crime being unacceptable in our community, there is a rise in anti-Muslim attacks on people, there is a rise on anti – Semitic attacks, there is a rise in anti – black racism. It’s simply not acceptable.

It has to be countered by education, by police activity and above all by the reporting of it. Unfortunately, there are not enough people who suffer racist abuse that report it to the police they can’t do anything about it”.

Demonstrating positive diversity at the event, was Rabbi Herschel Gluck. In his speech he praised the unity and solidarity shown at the event:

“Jews and Muslims are working together for the good of our communities and society in general.”

He went on to call on London’s communities to promote positivity at a difficult time:

“We should export the positivity, the love, the harmony that we see here this evening to there (Gaza)”

Speaking with The Asian Standard, he talked of the importance of the event:

“It’s extremely important, these events play a central role in enhancing communal relations by demonstrating what many of us know that relations are healthy and positive”.

He outlined his views on the increase in anti – Semitic hate crimes:

“Sadly, there has been an increase in anti – Semitic hate crime, as there has also been a sharp rise in Islamophobia. The perpetrators of all these crimes are basically the same people. They are people that want to sow discord and negativity. Therefore, we need to stand together to fight hatred and to increase love and positivity in society.”

The Christian faith was also represented, with a speech from Pastor Edbert Abebe:

“This community has chosen not to be defined by the tragic events of 2017, but to rise above it holding hands in unity.

Through our collective efforts we can help the disadvantaged, support the marginalised and create a more compassionate and equitable community for all.

In our teachings of faith, we find a common thread. We are called to love our neighbours to care for the vulnerable and strive for justice and equality. Those principles transcend religious boundaries and speak to the universal values of compassion, empathy and solidarity”.

Further demonstrating solidarity and diversity at the event was Gary Heather, The Mayor of Islington.

“The event demonstrates that people want to show their common solidarity and celebrate their common humanity. That’s what this event is about, because whatever faith you have, at this event you will be welcome.”

Organising the event was Mohammed Kozbar, the chair of the Finsbury Park Mosque:

“We have been doing this since 2017, where one of our worshipers passed away and others were injured. Since then, we have been regularly doing Street Iftar to bring communities together, Muslims and non – Muslims alike showing solidarity with them.”

He was also asked for his views on the current crises in the Middle East:

“It’s really heart breaking when you see children and women dying in that way. This atrocity, this genocide must stop. There can be no justification whatsoever, killing 33,000 civilians, and this is why we have been calling as a community for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. People should sit down and discuss peace and how we should move forward on this.”

He went on to talk of the future of the event:

“Because it has been such a huge success, we would like to continue with it.

People come and share food at this blessed month of Ramadan. Peace, respect and charity is the main thing this month, so we hope this will continue into the future.”

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