Charedi support for Muslim neighbours

UNITY: Rabbi Herschel Gluck and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner join members of the Muslim community to listen to Prime Minister Theresa May outside Finsbury Park Mosque

STAMFORD Hill’s charedi community showed its support to Muslims in neighbouring Finsbury Park following Sunday night’s attack on the Muslim Welfare House.

Jewish community leaders and others attended Finsbury Mosque on Monday where they met Prime Minister Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and parliamentary under-secretary for Department of Communities and Local Government, Lord Bourne.

Rabbi Abraham Pinter said: “We need to recognise this as a horrific terrorist attack, not a revenge attack. Any attack on innocents is a terrorist attack. I feel strongly about an attack on people returning from prayer.”

He added: “The Muslim community really appreciated my coming along. I was in the mosque for a few hours. Everybody wanted to shake my hand. I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable as a visibly charedi Jew. I only felt positivity.

“People just came over to shake my hand and thanked me for coming. I must have been invited to about 10 iftar celebrations to break the Ramadan fast.

“It’s very important we show unity and solidarity and that terrorists will not divide us. If the terrorist wanted to create division, the opposite has happened. There was solidarity like after the Blitz. When London’s under attack, the community comes together.”

Lord Bourne thanked the rabbi for the work he is doing in the wider community.

He also told Rabbi Pinter of the solidarity of the Manchester Jewish and charedi communities after the recent concert attack.

Rabbi Pinter impressed on Lord Bourne the difference between extremism and religious conservatism, the latter quality, shared by charedim and Muslims, which he said, was a positive, not a negative trend.

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, who also visited Finsbury Park Mosque on Monday, has been acting in Muslim-Jewish relations for decades.

He chairs the Muslim Jewish Forum and the Arab Jewish Forum and is president of Shomrim, which works closely with the CST.

He was instrumental in setting up the Manchester Muslim Jewish Forum and also claims to have helped the transformation of the formerly-controversial Finsbury Park Mosque after the arrest of hate preacher Abu Hamza, who headed the mosque, in 2004.

Rabbi Gluck said: “We strengthened the moderates and therefore the extremists didn’t have a chance.”

After the departure of Abu Hamza, there was an 18-month battle for control of the mosque between extremists and moderates. The mosque now concentrates on tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

Harking back to the Abu Hamza era, Rabbi Gluck said: “There were times when Jews felt uncomfortable in that area. More Jewish people are now living in Finsbury Park than in the past. They have extremely good relations with the Muslims.”

The rabbi said about Monday’s attack: “The terrorist incident was meant to divide communities, cause division and a spiral of violence. In fact it has further cemented and united communities.”

Also present at the mosque on Monday was Reform Judaism head Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Board of Deputies vice-president Marie van der Zyl and public affairs director Phil Rosenberg.

Rabbi Gluck met the following day with leading members of the Counter Terrorism Office.

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