British Muslims hand out 3,000 roses on London Bridge
Hundreds attend open day for mosque defaced by Islamaphobic graffiti
A woman prepares to give out roses on London Bridge with messages of “love and solidarity”. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/PA
Londoners and tourists have been handed flowers as a symbol of love at the site of the latest terrorist attack in the UK.
A group of British Muslims gave 3,000 roses to people on London Bridge in a demonstration of solidarity following the van and knife rampage that left eight people dead and dozens injured.
“After the events of last weekend we are making a symbolic gesture of love for the communities affected by the attack,” said Zakia Bassou, one of the organisers of Sunday’s event. “The whole concept is we are not going to let London Bridge, or any bridge, fall down.”
Londoner Elida Ercolano was visibly emotional after receiving her rose. “I think it’s lovely, it’s what London is actually about as a city,” she said. “It’s what people should remember despite what’s gone on. It’s a great symbol and of nothing else it’s bringing people together. It’s very easy to believe the fear but boil it down and we are actually, in the main, good people and we should remember that.”
June Collis, from Gillingham, Dorset, said it was “beautiful and lovely to see this group come out and share their love against all the horrible things that have happened”.
“Muslims need to speak up and go against the extremists,” she added. “This is a good way of speaking up for themselves. Let’s just hope we don’t see any more of these horrible killings.”
David Hackett, visiting the capital from Durham, said he found the event “very touching”.
The 1,000 Roses London project paid for the roses through a crowdfunding campaign and bought the flowers at Zara Floral in East Grinstead. Fundraising is continuing and the group is planning to hold another rally in the future.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people have attended an open day for a mosque defaced by Islamaphobic graffiti after the London Bridge terror attacks.
The words “Muslim cowards” were sprayed on Thornaby Mosque, in Teesside, last Monday – two days after eight people were killed and 48 wounded in the capital.
Cleveland police has said it is treating the vandalism as a hate crime amid a sharp rise in Islamophobic attacks in London and Manchester following both terror attacks.
The mosque said it had been overwhelmed by the support of the local community after hundreds turned up to learn about Islam on Saturday.
A Thornaby mosque spokesman said it had also been touched by individual acts of kindness. One woman bought a tin of paint and stood out in the rain to remove the Islamaphobic graffiti, he said.
One of the open day’s organisers, Zakir Mahmoud, said it offered residents a “safe space to ask any questions they have, however controversial they think they are, however British they want to be and keep it to themselves and not offend anyone”.
Mahmoud told the crowd that the open day was important in breaking down barriers in the community. Referring to the vandalism, he said: “When something like this happens, the mosque and its community can take two responses.
“They can become very insular and people can keep themselves to themselves or they can do what this mosque did and say come and talk to us. That is the British way – to grab a cup of tea and a biscuit, sit down and talk through the issues.”
“We are part of the community, we are British and when things like the attacks in Manchester and London happen, they affect us. I can stand here on behalf of the Muslim community and say we completely condemn the attacks, they do not represent us in any way, shape or form and they go against everything we stand for.”
Dr Nav Ahmad, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at James Cook University Hospital, told the Evening Gazette: “I teach at the mosque about tolerance, loving your neighbours and avoiding any forms of extremism. I think today’s event was really a fantastic success. You always need two hands to have a handshake.
“The British public have shown how wonderful they are – they have overcome hate with love. We felt the love of the British public today. What was written on the mosque was washed away a thousand times by the love and understanding shown by the public today.”
Suzanne Fletcher, (72), who attended the open day, said: “I wanted to take the opportunity to find out a little more about the Muslim faith. “I thought it was really important to show solidarity because of the way they’ve been demonised in the press.”
Tracy Fascia, another local resident, said she did not want her “children growing up thinking that they can’t pass a Muslim on the street”.
“I’ve always thought of us as a tight community and for somebody to actually think that that was acceptable and for children to walk past to go to school and see that type of thing is just wrong,” she told the BBC.
Thornaby Muslim Association was set up in 1976 by six Muslim families who lived in Thornaby, six miles south-west of Middlesbrough. Now, around 300 people attend the mosque.