Mixed London Area Rallies against Anti-Muslim Terror
The multi-ethnic London neighborhood Finsbury Park with strong Jewish and Muslim communities came out against terrorism on Monday after a white man drove a van into a crowd of Muslim worshipers near a local mosque.
"This hideous crime is NOT who we are. Finsbury Park represents the rest of London. Love and tolerance," read a hand-written note left beside the bouquets of flowers that residents placed near the scene of the attack.
A multi-colored sign left by local schoolchildren read simply: "One Community Standing Together".
"Leave Our Muslim Neighbours Alone," said a placard held up by Alison, who told AFP that she was "upset and angry that my neighborhood has been defiled by these people who are racists and idiots."
"I've been here for over 35 years and it's always been mixed and really peaceful and I don't want to see that change," said the short-haired woman, who said she was in her 60s.
Finsbury Park is one of the many areas of London that has seen successive waves of immigration, from East European Jews in the 19th century, followed by the Irish, Caribbean islanders, Cypriots and Somalis.
Shorts and djellabas, mini-skirts and niqabs live side by side in this working-class area close to Arsenal Football Club's Emirates Stadium, an epitome of London's melting pot.
"It's sickening... But it won't change anything," said Wilson Sawane, a 29-year-old Senegalese man.
"Tomorrow on the football pitch it's still going to be white, black and Arab. It's like that here."
Representatives of Shomrim, the north London Haredi Jewish community's civilian volunteer security force, also came to the scene of the attack in solidarity.
"We came with a whole team just to show our support for the Muslim community," said volunteer Eli Feld, 29, whose force helps protect the area's Muslims too.
Local rabbi Mendy Korer said it was important for everyone to take responsibility for building better relations between communities.
"We can't fix the world but we can fix our neighborhood," he told AFP.
- 'Stand together' -
Tinkerbell McDonagh came with her son, who left a soft toy elephant in front of the mosque -- a former hub of radical Islamists that has become a center for tolerance and inter-faith relations in recent years.
"We're here to stand together... Here everybody likes each other, helps each other out," she said, crying.
McDonagh said the attack was "not human" and voiced criticism of Prime Minister Theresa May for failing to prevent four attacks -- three of them Islamist-inspired -- in the past four months.
"She's useless," he said.
After coming on his bike and leaving a bouquet, another mourner who gave just the name Marc said: "I don't want any of this violence.
"Everybody is angry and there is a tiny, tiny proportion of people who are crazy enough to give in to their anger," he said.
In a sinister twist, representatives of different faiths had come together on Saturday at the Muslim Welfare House, next to where the attack took place, to commemorate the first anniversary of the killing of British lawmaker Jo Cox by a Nazi sympathizer.
"Less than 48 hours later, the same area experienced a terrorist attack aimed at killing Muslims returning home after their Ramadan prayers," Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, told reporters.
"An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths and community. Those who try to divide us and who aim to spread fear, hatred and division will not succeed."