My flight landed from Barcelona last night from what will be very happy memories, at least for now, overshadowed by what happened at 02:10 AM this morning.
Asleep, I got a call from my mother who was at the Finsbury Park Mosque doing her nightly prayers where she has been doing most of them this Ramadan. She goes there every year during Ramadan to join the large group prayer with fellow Muslims. If I understand correctly people travel from across London to be at that particular Mosque to pray as it has become somewhat of a centre during Ramadan. It's the last ten days of Ramadan now, so prayers go right into the early morning with Muslims making all kinds of faithful intentions for the 12 months ahead.
I pick up the phone on my bed and my mum kept saying "don't worry, I'm fine, just in case you heard on the news what happened". I hadn't heard, as I was asleep with work in the morning. We live a 15-minute drive away so I kept her on the line and jumped in a car with my brother and headed straight there. Before we left the house my mum wanted to continue praying, as many Muslims continued to do in that moment, despite the attack. I'm totally here for the 'God has power over my life' perspective but tangibly I don't know how that was going to manifest in the middle of this terrorist attack and, to put it simply, I wasn't about to let my mum die this way or any way.
She was then going to walk to her car alone on Blackstock Road. Originally I encouraged her to flee the scene and to do exactly that but then I remembered that certainty in this political and cultural climate is a thing of the past. There is no right procedure. Dressed in her khimar (which she only really wears to pray) she could have been a target for anyone inciting hate across our country. An easy one.
We got there and there were news cameras and camera crews, helicopters, police officers, tape and worried Muslims and locals trying to make sense of all of this. It was a sight I couldn't really believe my circumstances led me to. Never EVER in my life did I think I would end up so close to police tape at the scene of a terrorist attack looking for a family member.
I don't know what drove this 'person' or 'people' (yes we must use quotation marks because we know they're humans but we don't know if they are indeed people with emotions and empathy for others) to do what they did this morning. The outcomes I desire however are political. The Mayor of London, the Met Police and the Prime Minister need to spark outrage that a white male attacker was able to cause such destruction over marginalised communities. I can't imagine what it must feel like to get the call that there's been an attack in your capital as a state leader. I just imagine the feeling shouldn't be that dissimilar from how I felt tonight.
Everybody, including myself, has referenced the way these communities are pulling together whether it's Grenfell Tower (which I can't get into much detail about because I'm concerned about my mental health if I do) or Manchester, where mothers and young children were targeted. It shouldn't have to get to that stage. Those leading strategy within our public services need to make it a priority to provide extra services for these groups. If that means more police at mosques until the end of Ramadan then make it happen. There is probable cause for such action. Our country's political system and the public services they provide are not working for those who need it the most and it amazes me how quick people are to disregard someone else's experience in order to justify their own ignorance.
The media are reporting this as a 'collision'. I have questions. Why are we not talking about this man's skin colour or describing his physical features in the reporting? It doesn't seem like he was driven by ideology because he's white, right? So, media - are we from now on going keep out the religions or skin colours of those who have also committed such crimes and leave us in those communities to pick up the consequences?
Thankfully, I have power over who and what I follow on social media where many publications and friends direct me to what eventually becomes a broad range of interests. I wouldn't say it's not an echo chamber just yet but not nearly enough of us are going out of our way to ensure the news we digest comes from verified and reliable sources. Instead they are from sources that we expect to trust but have a hidden bias that can be hidden no longer.
Mum and I will be fine but that was the most horrific 90 minutes of my life.
I encourage everyone with power to make choices in how they respond and that their responses reflect those without power or as much.