Police In London Investigate Attack On Pedestrians As Terrorism

Jun 19, 2017
Originally published on June 19, 2017 7:01 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we've been reporting, early this morning, a van plowed into pedestrians in London in what police are investigating as a terror attack. The driver of the van is in custody. One person died at the scene. Ten others were injured in this attack. And this appeared to be aimed at the city's Muslim community. It happened outside a mosque where people were observing the holy month of Ramadan.

Omer El-Hamdoon is president of the Muslim Association of Britain, and he joins us now. Thanks so much for making time to talk with us on a difficult morning.

OMER EL-HAMDOON: Thank you very much for hosting me.

MARTIN: We should stress; police do not know the motivation behind this attack at this point. The driver has not yet been interviewed. But London, to say the least, is a very tense place right now. Could you give us a sense of the conversations you've been having over these last few hours with members of the Muslim community?

EL-HAMDOON: Yeah. I mean generally the Muslim community is quite distressed about this incident because it is an incident which has attacked Muslims not only in the month of Ramadan but also as they're leaving the mosque after having offered prayers there. So they are feeling that - the sense of distress. There is a little bit of confusion as why this has happened. Although, we do know that Islamophobic attacks have increased in recent times, whether it's months or years. And obviously these increase whenever there's an incident happening there. So they are generally distressed about this.

There are obviously reports also coming out about, you know, why this happened or indeed what was recorded about the incident. So generally people are a little bit more alert. We are advising people to be a little bit more cautious but not to, you know, to stop their main day-to-day activities, which obviously is important as terrorists like to spread fear and prevent people from going about their daily lives.

MARTIN: Let me ask you this. You put out a statement saying, we call on politicians to treat this major incident no less than a terrorist attack. Authorities are treating it that way, but why is that designation so important in this moment?

EL-HAMDOON: It's important because we saw immediately after the attack that a lot of people on social media and Muslims were saying, you know, in a very sort of sarcastic way that this is not going to be treated as terror attack because the perpetrator is not a Muslim.

And I think it's very important for the government and the officials to recognize that terrorism is not something that is just linked to Islam and Muslims. Terrorism comes in all different forms and sizes. It's different people. Different backgrounds can commit it. It's really a hate, evil ideology that can come from different backgrounds. And that's why it's important to see that.

And it's not just that. Something that's coming - as we tend to hear, unfortunately, that all, you know, all terrorists are Muslims, and that is not the case because end of the day, this person committed an act of terror. He wanted to terrorize people. And I think he may have succeeded in that sense. But we're hoping that people don't give in to that kind of practice.

MARTIN: What do you want to see next? Do you want this to be used as a moment to call for greater awareness of attacks - potential attacks or hate crimes against Muslims?

EL-HAMDOON: We need, actually - I mean as we said, obviously we want the police to do more. But it's very important that the government does step in as well to make sure that they tackle this, they take this threat of Islamophobia seriously and to treat this incident as a very important alarm that things are not healthy...

MARTIN: Yeah.

EL-HAMDOON: ...In British society and that more needs to be done.

MARTIN: Omer El-Hamdoon, president of the Muslim Association of Britain. Thank you so much.

EL-HAMDOON: Thank you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.