It was a normal Wednesday afternoon and I was working away in the office not far across from the River Thames across from Westminster Bridge, in fact you can see the London Eye from the top floor of my office - then all of a sudden I started getting Whatsapp notifications about the stabbing of a Police Officer near Parliament. At first I was unable to understand what had happened, then my colleagues turned on the TV and the news began to emerge that 4 people had been killed amidst another incident where a driver ran over 3 people.
Amongst the deceased was Aysha Frade, a mother going to pick up her children from school. I felt sadness and anger - who knew that an innocent woman going about her daily life would have her life taken in this horrific act of violence and senselessness? My heart and sincerest condolences go to her family and children. My email got stopped half way as I and my colleagues looked at the screen with much fear at the loss of lives including that of Police Officer Keith Palmer who bravely protected our city that day - it took a while to sink in that all this was taking place just a few minutes away from my office.
Westminster is a place I am very familiar with, having grown up in London and studied Politics myself at University College London I've attended plenty of events and engagements in the heart of this great city I am proud to call my home. This monumental place today became the centre of attack for yet another mindless thug who happens to be Muslim. But he does not reflect what Islam, a religion of peace and compassion, teaches from his atrocious crimes which took the lives of innocent people that day.
As a young British Muslim I felt deeply sad and horrified by these events. I also felt fear admittedly about the safety of not only myself but everyone else in London that evening on my way to Leicester Square with my Hindu friend. My friends and family were all messaging from around the world to check if I was safe, I had never thought despite witnessing so many terrible acts of violence since 9/11 that something would happen so close to home. I knew that as a British Muslim we must do something to support the victims of this atrocity and tragic event which occurred in our community, so I was glad that a group of British Muslims launched a campaign called 'Muslims United for London' to help the victims and their families on LaunchGood - a crowdfunding platform for individuals to support great causes of good in society As one of the founders of the campaign Muddassar Ahmed said he started the campaign as a way of standing up for London, and the city's international values.
"It's very important to show that individuals that may try to divide communities by participating in attacks which pit one side of the community against another are going to fail," he said. The funds raised will provide support to the victims and their families from the attacks. LaunchGood is a platform founded by global Muslims to support Muslims launching good all across the world by helping them raise funds for their campaigns. This is what British Muslims stand for.
What happened next was an incredible expression and moment of pure love, compassion and solidarity by British Muslims - so powerful and strong that it told those who sought to divide us and create fear in our society that we will not allow it. Within 48 hours the campaign raised over £25,000. Hundreds of Muslim faith leaders, Imams, activists and Muslims turned up at the Trafalgar Square Vigil last Thursday evening where Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, a proud British Muslim himself highlighted that: "Terrorists want to attack London is because they hate the fact that we don't just tolerate each other - whether you're a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, member of an organised faith or not, we respect, embrace and celebrate each other and that's going to carry on",
British Muslims like myself have studied, grown up and are proud to be British citizens, we like everyone else want to see an end to these mindless and extreme acts of violence on innocent lives wherever they may take place around the world. The Qur'an says: "Whoever takes a life, it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity." (Chapter 5, Verse 32) Social cohesion and unity will only be fostered if we learn to embrace each other's differences, to work together against evil and through better understanding one another as the beautiful teachings of my faith encourage. If we allow the attackers to divide us, we let them win, But if we stand together united, we are more stronger than they ever will be.
I am proud of British Muslims and their response to this attack, we will not allow violence to be committed in our name and we will spread good and help those in need as the British Muslim community have demonstrated time and time again by raising over £100 million each year in the holy month of Ramadan alone in charitable causes. This is what British Muslims stand for and this is what my faith teaches me - love, peace, tolerance, generosity and kindness. And we stand together united for London to overcome the hate and to prevent such attacks from creating further division in a city that I love so much, a city that celebrates diversity and people from all walks of life.