The attempted arson attack on Finsbury Park Mosque over the weekend is part of a growing trend of anti-Muslim hatred in London following the Paris attacks earlier this month. We have had offensive letters, emails and abusive phone calls.
Our community members – women and men who attend the mosque – have been physically attacked. I have female members of the congregation here who say they are afraid to walk alone or to go shopping or take public transport in recent weeks. It is serious: these incidents are increasing, not declining.
What happened in Paris was horrible and the Muslim community, led by the Muslim council of Britain (MCB), was among those to condemn it through many press releases, a big rally the next day after the attack and an open letter signed by more than three hundred Muslim organisations. We also asked mosques to address the issue during Friday prayers.
As we always say, we are not responsible for attacks such as those that took place in Paris, and neither is our religion. It is not fair for the Muslim community to be blamed, they are victims like anybody else. Muslims are being killed more by Islamic State (Isis) than anybody else, not just in Iraq and Syria but also in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
If this container full of petrol had exploded on Friday it would have been a disaster. We were lucky because it was raining at the time and it didn't explode. The impact on the community, the area, and society in general would have been huge. We saw what happened after the Lee Rigby incident when the mosque in Muswell Hill was burned down, the impact on the community was devastating. We don't want to go through that again.
Our community is very worried and angry about what has happened. Many Muslims, especially women, say they are afraid to take their children to school. This is why it is vital to catch the perpetrators as soon as possible and bring them to justice so the community can feel safe and protected. But despite all that, our community is defiant: we will not let these criminals change our way of life, we are more determined than ever to promote cohesion and harmony.
I was pleased by the support that Finsbury Park Mosque received this weekend. We had a lady from our neighbours who came in tears with a bunch of flowers to tell us that we support you and the work you do, please do not let these extremists win. Yesterday, we were visited by our local Islington MP, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, along with our neighbour MPs Catherine West and David Lammy, the leader of Islington Council Richard Watts, and senior members of the Metropolitan Police, including London commander Lucy D'Orsi, who assured us that they will do everything they can to hunt the suspect, who was caught on CCTV.
Some friends suggested that we organise a rally outside the mosque this Friday evening (4 December) that will be open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, called by Unite Against Fascism, the Stop the War Coalition and Finsbury Park Mosque. We do not want this handful of extremists who commit these crimes to feel that they have won, that they have made us scared.
They want us to be isolated from the wider community but we are now determined to be more integrated and more active in promoting community cohesion and community relations. We encourage everyone from the Finsbury Park community and beyond to attend. We must show that we are united against this act of terror, and that these hateful individuals who would target a place of worship are just a tiny minority in London.
Mohammed Kozbar is the chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque and an IBTimes UK columnist. The rally at Finsbury Park Mosque will take place on Friday evening 6pm.