Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Justin Welby and Muslim leaders have united in condemning an attack on worshippers outside of Finsbury Park Mosque in North London late Sunday night in which one man has died and 10 others were injured.
A white van ploughed into people attending Ramadan night prayers in Seven Sisters Road at 12.20am. According to eyewitnesses van driver is reported to have shouted: ”I’m going to kill all Muslims”.
The attacker drove the van into a group of people who were helping an elderly worshipper who had collapsed on the pavement. The man has since died, but it is unclear whether this is as a result of the attack, police have said.
The 48-year old attacker tried to escape the scene, but was restrained by members of the public. He has since been arrested and police have said he will have a mental health assessment in “due course.”
Eight people were taken to hospital and two more were treated for minor injuries at the scene. Police said all the casualties were Muslims.
In a statement given outside of Downing Street at noon today (19 June), Prime Minister Theresa May described the incident as “every bit as sickening” as the other recent terrorist attacks.
Police declared it a terrorist incident within eight minutes, May said.
“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship ... And like all acts of terrorism it seeks to drive us apart,” she said.
May paid tribute to the “extraordinary” people of London. She praised the way the public detained the attacker, just as the way others had tackled the attackers on London Bridge and the way the community had come together in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.
"Together with people all over this country I am appalled at the deliberate attack on people leaving their late night prayers, as the end of their day of fasting, at the mosque in Finsbury Park. I have assured the leadership of the Mosque and the Muslim Welfare Centre of our prayers and support," said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in a statement released this morning.
“Violence breeds violence. Hatred breeds hatred. Every one of us must repudiate hatred and violence from our words and actions. We must all be builders of understanding, compassion and peace, day by day, in our homes, our work and our communities. That is the only way," he continued.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, echoed this sentiment: “Violence only begets more violence – it serves only the interests of those who would terrorise others.”
His statement, also released this morning continued: “This wanton and cruel act can produce no good and cannot be justified or excused. In exactly the same way as previous recent attacks it is a crime against God and against humanity.”
Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack describing it as a “violent manifestation” of Islamophobia.
The Muslim Association of Britain has called on police to increase security in mosques.
It also demanded politicians “treat this major incident no less than a terrorist attack.”
They added: “We call on the government to do more to tackle this hateful evil ideology which has spread over these past years and resulted in an increase of Islamophobic attacks and division of our society, as well as spreading of hate.”
Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, called for police and the government to protect mosques and said his own mosque would be stepping up security.
He added: “This is a shocking new terrorist attack - and we have to call it that. It’s no different to Manchester, Westminster or London Bridge. Innocent people have lost their lives while just going about their business. Innocent people are being killed in cold blood.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the attack as an appalling incident, and said new funding for security at religious sites had recently been arranged.
"We have a places of worship fund which we announced last summer, which is there to protect places of worship like mosques. We will make sure that we do all we can to reduce these sort of attacks."
This is the fourth terror attack in the UK in four months, after incidents in Westminster, Manchester and on London Bridge.
PICTURE: Police close roads in Finsbury Park, north London, following the attack.