Leaders of Britain’s Muslim and Christian communities united yesterday in condemnation of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by Muslim extremists. They urged people to come together and work together to defeat hatred.
They met in Leicester and, in a joint statement with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, pointedly aligned himself, and by extension Britain's Muslim community, with Britain the country, speaking about "our prime minister" in reference to David Cameron.
Shaykh Mogra said: “The Muslim communities of Britain, like the rest of the country, are shocked and appalled by the horrific murder in Woolwich. The murderers chanted slogans during their heinous crime, claiming to do it in God’s name – far from it.
“As our prime minister rightly concluded, this is a betrayal of Islam. Indeed, this is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn it utterly and unreservedly.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Lee Rigby's family and friends and especially his two-year-old son. Drummer Rigby was a serving member of the armed forces. Muslims have long served in this country's armed forces, proudly and with honour. This attack on a member of the armed forces is dishonourable and no cause can justify this murder.
“This crime has heightened tensions throughout the country. The Muslim Council of Britain calls on all, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail.”
There was a similar message from Archbishop Welby, who said: “I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques and other faith and civil society groups as well as those of brave individuals who have done so much to bring our communities together at this time.
“The strong response of the Muslim Council of Britain and many other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in Islam.”
Earlier in the day, the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, participated in an interfaith gathering in Islington, north London, where he voiced strong appreciation for the swift and unequivocal condemnation of the murder by Muslim leaders.
“The fact that we’re here together – from so many different directions and so many parts of the diversity that is London – it sends out a very simple message of hope over fear, of community over division, and that is immensely important,” he said.
Mr Clegg said Islam was “perverted” by the two men who were shot by police in the wake of the murder. He read a verse from the Koran which states: “If anyone kills a human being, it shall be as though he killed all mankind.”
He continued: "What we heard from those two individuals was a total, unqualified betrayal of Islam. A religion of peace was being distorted, turned upside down and inside out, perverted in the cause of an abhorrent and violent set of intentions."