As the whole world reacted with shock and horror to the terrorist shootings in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday 15 March 2019, people came together at the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre in a show of solidarity and defiance against far-right extremism.

The weekly congregation of over five thousand people for the Friday prayers was joined by faith and political leaders determined to stand together in unity. Our Mosque was honoured to welcome:

  • Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
  • Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, Bishop of London
  • Rushanara Ali MP
  • John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets
  • Chief Superintendent Sue Williams, Borough Commander
  • Rev Alan Green, Chair of Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum
  • Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

We greatly appreciate their support.

The Friday sermon was given by Shaykh Mohammed Mahmoud, Senior Imam of the East London Mosque [full transcript here, video recording on YouTube]. He expressed our revulsion of the evil, callous murders:

It was of course a massacre, and a catastrophe by every measure, a crime with no equal, a terrorist attack that shook a nation and the global community. And this escalation of violence against Muslims is more than just a worrying trend, it’s a realisation of the real and imminent threat to our security, and the security of every other vulnerable group in our society, by the growth of the increasingly violent far-right. They can no longer be labelled as lone psychopaths, as deranged or disgruntled; rather they are sane, and they’re cruel, and they’re calculating, and they’re sadistic, and they are organised. They aim to galvanize their efforts with the proponents of their evil causes on a global scale. These people must be dealt with the full force of the law. Threats should be taken seriously and not lightly. Their platforms should be targeted, and their supporters exposed and scandalised.

He concluded with a prayer for the victims, asking God to “unite New Zealand and its people, and for them to stand united against hatred.” He then led the Friday prayer, reciting verses from the Qur'an that Muslim turn to in times of tragedy:

O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.

And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.

And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient,

Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.”

Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.

{Holy Qur'an, chapter 2, verses 153–157}

Shaykh Mohammed Mahmoud, Senior Imam at East London Mosque

After the prayers, Dilowar Hussain Khan, Director of Finance & Engagement at the East London Mosque, invited our guests to say a few words. Following a recitation from the Holy Qur'an, the Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust, Habibur Rahman, thanked our distinguished guests for their solidarity today, and went on to echo the sentiments of the sermon: “It is very, very important, particularly for people in authority and influence – our politicians and the media – to be very careful about the language that they use.”

Habibur Rahman, Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust

Tower Hamlets Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Sue Williams reassured communities about an increased police presence: “We will not tolerate hate crime not our communities.”

Chief Superintendent Sue Williams, Borough Commander for Tower Hamlets

Mayor John Biggs spoke of the strength of community on Tower Hamlets: “I'm here as the mayor for the all of the people Tower Hamlets to stand in solidarity. We are a strong community, but we must always be vigilant to stand against the people who try to divide us.”

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets

Local MP Rushanara Ali added: “On behalf of my constituents I want to express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims who lost their lives today and those who've been injured. We know what it’s like to face the consequences of terrorism in our country and here in this borough. Our strength is in our diversity and in our ability to pull together in the face of threats. Governments must take far-right extremism as seriously as other forms of extremism.”

Rushanara Ali MP

Harun Rashid Khan stressed: “We need governments and local authorities to step up and accept what Islamophobia is and work together to protect our community and our society, everybody together in solidarity.”

Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, spoke of the universality of these tragic events: “An attack on faith anywhere is an attack on faith everywhere. I stand here as your neighbour and the neighbour of those who died New Zealand. We will not tolerate religious hatred, but we stand for religious freedom.”

Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, Bishop of London

Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke movingly: “There were innocent men, women and children who were targeted for no other reason other than they follow the faith of Islam. I've a message to those politicians, opinion formers, and others who fan the flames of hatred, who demonise and dehumanise people because of the faith they follow, who play on people’s fears rather than address them, is these are some of the consequences of the actions you do. And that’s why it is so important that here in London we show the world that our diversity is our strength.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

The meeting concluded with a short prayer given by the East London Mosque's Head Imam, Shaykh Abdul Qayum.

Shaykh Abdul Qayum, Head Imam of the East London Mosque

The guests then came together for a short vigil, before addressing the waiting media.

Further coverage:

BBC: Anger and solidarity at UK gathering for New Zealand attack