A religious leader at the Finsbury Park mosque made a poignant speech encouraging the community to reject “hatred, division and racism” just days before Monday’s attack outside the Muslim Welfare House.
The London mosque’s general secretary, Mohammed Kozbar, delivered a speech at an event called The Great Get Together, which honoured slain British MP Jox Cox on the first anniversary of her death. The 41-year-old, who was outspoken against Brexit, was shot and stabbed to death by a white supremacist.
The event, held at the welfare house, invited people of all backgrounds to “celebrate all that we hold in common,” according to its website.
“Both extremists do not represent us, do not represent our communities, do not represent our faiths,” Kozbar said at the gathering, according to HuffPost UK. “They are a tiny minority, a bunch of murderers who only represent hatred, division and racism.”
“This is why it is the time more than ever to stand up to these extremists who want to divide our communities and spread hatred between us,” he continued.
About 48 hours later, a man plowed a van into a group of Muslim worshippers leaving the mosque, injuring at least 10 people in an incident British authorities are treating as an act of terrorism.
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The suspect allegedly shouted, “I’ve done my bit,” after the attack.
Kozbar spoke out against the terror attack in a statement, saying the incident was “a cowardly attack which is no different than the attacks in Manchester and London.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” the statement added. “We urge all attending mosques and going about their business to remain vigilant in this difficult time.”
The mosque’s leaders have been outspoken against extremism in recent years, following the firing of its controversial imam Abu Hamza.
Hamza was ousted by the mosque in 2003, for supporting Osama Bin Laden and was later convicted of terrorism-related offences, The Guardian reported.
In the years since, the Finsbury Park mosque has been part of numerous counter-terrorism programs in London, and received the Visible Quality Mark national award for its efforts in 2014.
— With a file from Global News reporter Adam Frisk