Bombings: Plea for religious tolerance

By Rebecca Sheppard and Sharon AsplinTHE president of a centre promoting good faith relations hopes there will not be a backlash against the Muslim community in the wake of the London terrorist attacks.

By Rebecca Sheppard and Sharon Asplin

THE president of a centre promoting good faith relations hopes there will not be a backlash against the Muslim community in the wake of the London terrorist attacks.

The Rev Cliff Reed, from the Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource, said there were incidents directed against the Islamic community in the county after the terror attacks in America on September 11, 2001.

Mr Reed, who is also minister of Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House, added: “Obviously, everyone is shocked and appalled by what has happened, which is true of people from every faith. There's no differentiation of people from different religions in terms of reaction.

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“I have not yet heard of any negative reaction towards Muslims and they have not definitely established who has done it, although they are saying 'Islamic terrorists'.

“People such as that are totally unrepresentative of the Muslim faith. I think that message is getting through to people after 9/11. People have learnt a bit more.”

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He continued: “Nearly every Muslim organisation I can think of has condemned it and are disassociating the Muslim faith from it, as these acts are a violation of Islam and what it stands for. I am hoping very much that that message is getting through to people.

“Muslims can get nervous at times like these as people might take it out on them, but there is no reason why people should blame the local community, or any community.

“All it takes is a couple of drunks with a spray can and you get an incident. That would not represent the groundswell of opinion.

“I think we have moved on a bit. I do not think people are quite so ignorant as a few years ago. People won't blame law-abiding Muslims for the actions of fanatics.”

Mr Reed said there was a good dialogue between faiths, particularly in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, with the collaboration between Muslims and Christians, as well as other faiths, being solidified in the celebration of the community held every year in Ipswich.

A spokesman for the Ipswich Mosque said the Muslim community in the town and Suffolk condemned the London terrorists and stood united against those who sought to divide communities.

“The Muslim community in Suffolk is a small, peaceful and law-abiding community and we will continue to work together to promote peace, understanding and harmony across the county,” he added.

“In the aftermath of September 11, British Muslims experienced considerable backlash and many mosques and community centres came under attack in this country.

“We hope and pray that the same is not repeated after the tragic events that unfolded in our capital on Thursday. Terrorism has no religion and Islam unequivocally condemns all forms of violence, terror and injustice.

“The very word 'Islam' means 'peace' and 'tranquillity', but sadly today it is all too frequently associated with acts of violence and terror perpetrated by people of all colours and creed in many parts of the Muslim world.”

Meanwhile, leaders of the Anglican and Catholic churches have rallied round their communities in the wake of the atrocities.

The Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, said: “Following the dreadful terrorist attack upon London and the loss of life and injury to innocent people, I have asked our parishes to ensure that churches are open and available for prayer for all, and to be places of comfort to any in distress.”

The Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, added: “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this mindless violence and their families.

“I would also like to express my admiration for the courage and selflessness of the emergency services who have helped the many victims.

“Terrorism will achieve nothing because, in the face of violence, our people unite to defend our way of life and our values against extremism.”

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said the London bombings had come as a shock to everyone, which was what the terrorists had intended.

“But somehow it's a double shock. It's bad enough when something devastating happens, which has come about because of an accident or a natural disaster like the tsunami,” he added.

“But it is a double shock when it's something which is purposely triggered by other human beings. What on earth goes through their minds? Why attack people indiscriminately - regardless of race or faith or religion or age?

“It seems senseless and inhuman and yet it is carefully planned and executed. We do know that it won't be easy to find who did it. We also know that we will probably never be able to imagine in our own minds why they did it. It just feels impossible to understand how their minds work.”

Bishop Richard continued: “One of the remarkable things was that there was a sort of calm which came after the initial fear and panic.

“Perhaps people were too stunned by it all to do anything more at that time. I hope and pray that something of that calm may continue if it means that we take time and think carefully about how we react.

“The purpose of terrorism is to produce extreme confusion and turn people against each other so that they seek to destroy one another.

“Terrorism is defeated when people of different faiths and races are united in a common vision for good and resist being stampeded into revenge. We need to hold on to that vision in the days to come.”

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