Though invidious to choose, there is one man who more than any other has in recent months set an outstanding example of compassion, humanity and British values. The imam of Muslim Welfare House, Mohammed Mahmoud, realised the gravity of what was happening to his community from the moment a terrorist set about his mission of death, and the imam did the right thing: he protected a man who reportedly declared that he wanted to kill all Muslims.
With that brave action he set an important and powerful example of the sanctity of life and the rule of law. For anyone inclined to believe that all Muslim clerics are some sort of fellow travellers of Isis or the like, he is the rebuttal: a symbol of what Islam really stands for, not what some evil-doers would like to pretend it is about. He was the answer to the long gone Abu Hamza, who so notoriously preached hatred at the Finsbury Park Mosque next door. Hamza’s malign spirit has been exorcised.
Where do we go from here?
Though little, in reality, can ever be done about a single terrorist driving a vehicle into any group of innocent people, there are already some lessons that emerge from this episode, and arguably ones that should have occurred to the authorities before.
Places of worship need better protection. They are obvious targets for those with a perverted religious agenda, and have long been the subject of low-levgel acts of abuse, such as graffiti or pig’s heads dumped on doorsteps. The Jewish community is also familiar with these sorts of depressing acts, such as personal assaults and insults. These often form part of a “spike” in hate crimes after some major attack, and pass. Even so, the potential for a massacre is obvious now, and the grisly murder of a Catholic priest in France earlier this year was another example of how vulnerable congregations and clergy are. So police protection, CCTV and other measures are obviously required in and around mosques, temples, synagogues,…