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Religious leaders shocked by attack on Ramadan and Pentecost

Muslims pray at a floral tribute near London Bridge, after attackers rammed a hired van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby killing and injuring people, in London on June 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (RNS) Religious leaders prayed for London after another terrorist attack in Britain left seven dead and scores injured on the eve of the Christian holiday of Pentecost and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The attack, in which a van was deliberately driven into pedestrians on London Bridge and the three men in the van then ran amok with knives, stabbing passers-by, took place less than two weeks after the bomb attack in Manchester and just over two months after an Islamist attack in Westminster at the heart of Parliament.

The three assailants, who were all shot dead by police, are understood to be Islamist terrorists, with witnesses saying they heard one of them shout “This is for Allah,” as he stabbed one victim.

The deadly events coincide with two of the holiest times in the Muslim and Christian calendars: Ramadan and Pentecost, which fell on Sunday (June 4), and left religious leaders shocked at not only the violence but the timing.

Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, condemned the attacks in his home city in the strongest terms. “That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith,” he said.

Christian leaders who expected to spend Sunday celebrating the feast of Pentecost instead turned their attention to the attacks that took place a day earlier in the London Bridge area, which has become one of the capital’s most popular neighborhoods for restaurants and bars.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted: “Again we grieve with wounded and bereaved, as they face pain and struggle. Today we pray ‘Come Holy Spirit’, Spirit of peace and of healing.”

Later the archbishop, who was preaching at a Pentecost service in Kent, about 40 miles east of London, warned that the U.K. could end up “hiding behind closed doors” and urged Christians not to be afraid. He was referring to the disciples hiding behind closed doors at the time of Pentecost.

“There is a risk of our nation becoming a people who flee danger and try and lock themselves away when our culture, our history and our calling is to be those who overcome danger and overcome those who cause danger,” Welby said.

Road closures continued around the London Bridge area as police and forensic officers searched for evidence, cutting off nearby Southwark Cathedral and forcing its diocesan Pentecost service, to which people from all over the south London diocese were due to travel, to be moved a few miles away.

At the nearby Catholic cathedral of St. George’s, which was not affected by the cordon, at all Masses a minute’s silence was observed and prayers offered for those killed and injured in the attack.

Political leaders also expressed outrage, with Prime Minister Theresa May saying there had been too much tolerance of extremism, interpreted by political analysts as a reference to terrorists being able to get their messages out on the internet.

British Prime Minister Theresa May: London terror attack shows Britain too tolerant of extremism

London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the capital remained safe, although many Londoners disagreed.

Community leaders urged calm, but at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park — one of the capital’s most famous places for public speaking — there was evidence of growing tensions in the capital as a Muslim speaker holding a copy of the Quran was denounced by some passers-by as “a disgrace.”

(Catherine Pepinster is a correspondent based in London)

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Catherine Pepinster


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  • One locks the doors to one’s house because one is realistic about what is outside. One’s body has an immune system because it is designed to fight for its life against the forces in the world that would destroy it. Don’t be afraid? That is the same as being asked to not be realistic and to ignore the facts on the ground. The war on terror is a tougher nut to crack than the Germans were in WWII. Can you imagine if the Allies had fought WWII in the same limited way as the west is currently fighting radical Islamists? How many more have to die before the civilized world wakes us and deals with reality and fights not just to win but to survive. Or do we just have to tolerate that some folks will be killed as a necessary sacrifice for a delusional view of the world and a politically correct version of how we want to frame reality.

    People are being killed by those who live in our midst who adhere to radicalized Islam. They have been tolerated, described away, in some cases invited in thinking that being nice to them will win their hearts.

    How did appeasement work out back in the 1930s? How did fear of a major war and a lack of desire to pay the price to stand up to bullies work out in the 1930s? How many more have to die?

    And I can hear someone say, you are willing to consign so many Muslims to death by building a barrier to them. They need to fix their own house rather the west unlocking its door to whatever happens to want to walk in off the street. Yes, we can help them fix their house, but we have go to get real about the notice that having an open unlocked door is a good thing in a world where Islamic militancy and Islamic terrorism flourishes.

    The States of the west and their leaders are responsible first for the safety of their own citizens and the survival of their own people and civilization. I will continue to advocate for greater restriction on Islamic migration into my country and for a strong solid action in the war on terror because I am not willing to risk or sacrifice the life of my fellow American citizen for a pipe dream of a world that exists only in a fantasy land in people’s minds.

    New York, Washington DC, Shanksville PN, USS Cole, London (more than once), Paris, Baghdad, and on and on and on.

    It is time the governments of the west and all willing allies to sit down and declare war with the goal of unconditional surrender against Radical Islamic terror.

    It is time for another “Grand Alliance”, perhaps the grandest of alliances because this enemy is insidious.

  • Unwitting stooge apparently wants to do exactly what terrorists want.

    Make all of Islam appear as the enemy of the west and democracy.
    Get us to compromise our values, beliefs and freedom for an illusion of safety. But in reality enable further terrorism. Terrorists can only kill people and break things. Panicky fools can destroy our way of life.

    The “Gray Zone” is the group’s (ISIS) name for any place where there is pluralism and multiculturalism. For Daesh’s apocalyptic ideology, a pluralistic and inclusive society is repulsive and must be destroyed. To further that goal, the group seeks to widen the differences which exist, by definition, in a pluralistic community.

    In other words, it’s a wedge strategy. And once the Islamic State can drive enough of a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims, it can more easily radicalize and recruit.

    ..Daesh wants us to forget about the contributions of our Muslim friends and neighbors. They want us to hate and fear each other. They’re pushing for knee-j–rk backlashes.

  • To quote you, “Terrorists can only kill people…” Unrealistic views, such as the ones you advocate, have costed and are costing people their lives. In have not advocated for a war on Islam as a whole. I know all too well that there are many good Muslims out there. I also know all too well that there are certain areas of the planet that are in general radicalized, militant and very likely to spawn terrorists. I am far from panicky, I’ve been fighting this war for over 20 years. I certainly do not forget about the contributions of our Muslim allies and would hope to see them as part of the Grand Alliance.

    The terrorists think they can win. The can if they can talk folks like you into appeasement.

  • Who here is advocating a complete disavowal of the concept freedom of religion here? Not I?

    Who here wants to ignore and forsake our long history of being the nation people come to to flee oppression? Not I.

    You claim to oppose Islamic radicals but advocate to do everything which enables them. Makes their job easier. Your views not only cost lives here and abroad, the undermine an entire way of life.

    But generally I find you are all phony bluster and a bit of a drama queen. Someone trying to cover up a very simplistic and uninformed view.

    After repeating the Donald Trump Jr. candy analogy, it is impossible to pretend you are someone who has the kind of knowledge and background which requires being taken seriously as you claim.

    ISIS got their money’s worth with you.

  • “Religious leaders shocked by attack on Ramadan and Pentecost.” Really? Maybe we ought to find brighter religious leaders. The whole point of terrorism is an effort by the few to cow the many. London withstood the German bombing and the loss of seven people, while tragic and awful, does not mean Britain needs to become less democratic.

  • You are advocating to demonize all Muslims just like the Japanese, Germans, in WWII and the Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. This is exactly part of the platform used by 45 to stir up his base. It’s also called bigotry.

  • Really. So you decided to start/promote another alt-right fake news story? You should be posting at Breitbart not RNS.

  • Negative. Not all Muslims by any means. But targeted policy based on empirical data and experience with people living in particular geographical areas to protect American lives, this I clearly advocate for and this is what my team works for.

  • Empirical data/experience

    – Fifteen of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt, and Lebanon.
    – The new travel ban blocks entry to the US for citizens from Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Syria and Libya.

  • 9/11 was 15+ years ago. Current travel ban is based on actionable current intelligence.