The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on Sunday joined the Muslim Council of Britain in condemning the London Bridge terror attack and distancing Islam from the actions of those behind the killing spree.
Shortly after 10pm on Saturday a van ploughed into pedestrians on the bridge before three men rampaged with knives nearby, leaving seven dead and 48 injured. On Sunday, 21 victims remained in a critical condition.
Speaking to HuffPost UK, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Iman, Abdul Quddus Arif, detailed how his “heart was bleeding” in the aftermath of the attack but wanted to make it clear that the incident - carried out by men described as being of Mediterranean appearance, who reportedly shouted “this is for Allah” - did not reflect the values of his religion.
“It’s important that we stand united against terrorism. Terrorism has no religion. It’s vital to ensure that everyone knows that,” he said.
“Basically, not in my name, not in the name of Islam. I want to make that very clear. I want to make that very clear.”
Arif said he had come to London Bridge on Sunday, along with other Muslims, “collectively to pray for those that lost their lives, for the servicemen who were amazing, responded so well in a matter of seconds... and of course, pray for those that are still unwell in hospital”.
Arif admitted it was difficult, as a representative of the Muslim community, to defend Islam in the wake of two terror attacks in the UK within a fortnight, but said it also offered him a chance to clear up misconceptions about the religion.
On May 22, Salam Abedi detonated a suicide bomb at Manchester arena killed 22 people, in an attack later claimed by the Islamic State.
“It’s difficult to a certain degree but it gives us chance to clarify the true concept of Islam. The true religion of Islam. So, whereas it’s a horrible situation to be in, the only thing that I can take away (from it) is that coming out and telling the world that Islam is not a religion as portrayed by these so-called Muslims.”
He added: “Islam is a religion that says if you kill an innocent soul it’s akin to killing the whole of humanity and if you save an innocent soul it’s akin to saving the whole of humanity. And Muslim means the one who protects the rights of others. A true Muslim, he only has two purposes. One is fulfilling the rights of God, and second is to fulfil the rights of his fellow beings.”
Arif said the terror attack impacted him in two ways: “Yesterday evening my heart was bleeding for two reasons. It was bleeding because it was London, my city, and secondly, my Islam, the religion that I follow, was being tarnished at the hands of these so-called Muslims.”
The Iman said he had experienced some negativity online in the wake of the attack with someone on Twitter responding to him with calls for the UK to curb Muslim immigration.
“It’s not nice, not pleasant, but of course, I can certainly understand their sentiments. That’s why it’s vital for us to come out, even more. Condemn such practices. The media, more often than not, also says, ‘Where are the Muslim voices?’ Well, they’re here. And hopefully, those Muslim voices are being heard today as well.”
The Muslim Council of Britain echoed many of Arif’s sentiments, while also condemning the attack in the strongest terms.
The council’s secretary general, Harun Khan, said in a statement: “I am appalled and angered by the terrorist attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market, in my home city.
“These acts of violence were truly shocking and I condemn them in the strongest terms.
“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons.”
Khan said the fact the attack happened in the month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting, “only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith”.
He added: “My prayers are with the victims and all those affected. I commend the work of emergency services working hard to keep us safe and cope with the ensuing carnage.
“As ever we urge everyone to assist the authorities so that these criminals can be apprehended and brought to justice.”
Khan wrote on Twitter on Saturday night: “Shocked and concerned at ongoing developments in #LondonBridge and #BoroughMarket . Prayers for those affected”