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UK: Eye witness calls London mosque stabbing ’30 seconds of mayhem’

Saturday 22 February 2020, by siawi3


Eye witness calls London mosque stabbing ’30 seconds of mayhem’
: report | AFP

February 21, 2020

An eye witness to the recent stabbing at a mosque in central London described the incident as “30 seconds of mayhem”, UK publication The Guardian reported on Friday.

A day prior, British police arrested a man on suspicion of attempted murder for the stabbing. In a statement, police officials had said: “A man in his 70s was found injured. His condition has been assessed as non life-threatening.”

Meanwhile, photographs shared on social media from inside the mosque in Regent’s Park had showed a white man in a red top being pinned to the ground and handcuffed by two police officers.

“The incident is not being treated as terror related at this time,” the police had said on Thursday.

Describing the harrowing event that took place, adviser to London Central Mosque Ayaz Ahmed told The Guardian: “When you had the scuffle, the muezzin obviously screeched [...] when he got attacked. The imam quickly ended the prayer and everyone just jumped because obviously no one knew what was happening […] it was a very distressing moment.”

“The guy who gives the call to prayers [the muezzin] has been working here for 25 years […] five times a day he has been giving the call to prayer. He is a very respectable and well known man in the community. It’s just very shocking,” he added.

“We have 24-hour security and security guards. There are security guards standing at the back, behind the prayer hall always. But obviously in that situation or scenario it’s unforeseen [that] something like this would happen.”

Ahmed also thanked law enforcement agencies and the ambulance service for their prompt response. “I called the ambulance service, they came immediately as well so a lot of gratitude to both the police and the ambulance services.”

In a tweet on Friday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Places of worship should be sanctuaries — a safe haven. No one should be scared to attend mosques, churches, synagogues or temples.”

The mayor added that in order to show solidarity with Muslims residing in London, he will offer prayers at the London Central Mosque.

Reacting to the incident on Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said: “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the attack at the London Central Mosque. It’s so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship. My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.”



Regent’s Park mosque prayer leader returns day after being stabbed

Raafat Maglad says he feels sorry for alleged attacker as concerns are raised about security

Ben Quinn and Laith Al-Khalaf

Fri 21 Feb 2020 15.53 GMT
Last modified on Fri 21 Feb 2020 18.35 GMT

Raafat Maglad said it was ‘very important’ for him to attend Friday prayers. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

A Muslim prayer leader has returned to Regent’s Park mosque a day after he was stabbed in the neck in front of hundreds of horrified onlookers, as London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, urged worshippers to remain vigilant.

Raafat Maglad, who is in his 70s and is the mosque’s muezzin – the person who calls worshippers to prayer – said he was sorry for the alleged attacker, who was wrestled to the ground on Thursday after what one witness described as “30 seconds of mayhem.”

“I forgive him. I feel very sorry for him. What is done is done, he is not going to return,” he said, adding that as a Muslim he does not hold any hatred in his heart.

Maglad, who had his arm in a sling as he was escorted in to the mosque by security, said it was “very important” for him to attend Friday prayers, adding: “If I miss it, I just miss something very important. It is very important for us as Muslims,” he added.

Addressing worshippers over the loudspeaker system after prayers had ended, Sadiq Khan urged people to remain vigilant and reassured them that police would maintain a presence at the mosque, particularly as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

“If you see anybody acting suspiciously please be the eyes and ears of our police so they can keep us safe.”

A 29-year-old man who is believed to have been attending prayers was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder inside the mosque, officially known as London Central Mosque.

However, concerns about the wider threat to mosques were voiced following the stabbing. While the Metropolitan police have said that the attack is not being treated as terror-related, it comes after a string of incidents at places of worship and a deadly mass shooting by a far-right extremist in Germany.

Some Muslim community leaders feel that little has changed since concerns were raised in the Guardian last year about what they regard as the inadequacy of a government scheme designed to protect places of worship.

Miqdaad Versi, the head of public affairs at the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “All of the key concerns that we had before about the scheme remain, in terms of the scheme not being marketed very well, not being accessible and being too bureaucratic, or there being a lack of engagement with communities.

“A year ago, the government stated it would open a new £5m fund to provide security training. We are unaware of the progress of this funding, and whether anyone has yet accessed this new funding.”

The £375,413 awarded to the mosques under the scheme to protect places of worship was a tiny fraction of the £14m provided by a separate government fund for assisting the Jewish community, the Guardian reported. Applications by 24 mosques failed.

Shaukat Warraich, the chief executive of the non-theological group Faith Associates, said Muslim worshippers were now “looking over their shoulders” as they come to prayer.

He said: “Regent’s Park is the most iconic mosque in London because of its size and location, but it is probably also the most secure in terms of what they have and resources and manpower.

“But generally mosques are soft targets. Most don’t have any security apart from some CCTV. What we are seeing now is definitely a change in behaviour – women have stopped going and some children, too; they have been advised by the menfolk not to come to prayer in the evenings and to worship at home instead, because there are concerns about being attacked at prayer or on the way to the mosques.”

Friday prayers carried on as normal at Regent’s Park mosque as scores of worshippers entered and the call to prayer echoed throughout the building. But security was visibly heightened, with eight police officers stationed at the entrance.

Additional fluorescent-clad security officers brought in by the mosque included Ahmed, who believed that turnout was greater than usual in spite of the attack. “There are more people here than usual and while these things happen from time to time, I personally feel safe here,” he said, ushering people into the main hall.

Abdullah, a newcomer who had travelled from across London, said he was inspired to show solidarity after the attack. “It’s very important that we all show our support to the community after are not chased away.”

Sulman, a 37-year-old regular worshipper who came to the UK from Afghanistan in 1997, said: “Of course there are people that may be scared but the community is bigger than that and we need to come together’.