Featured image credit: @1000RosesLondon.
This past weekend, there were two events that showed Britain at its inspired, unified best. Both delivered a message of openness, solidarity and understanding, while rejecting acts of hate and intolerance.
They happened on Sunday, but we’ll explain them separately. Here’s the first: in the days following the London Bridge terror attack, Thornaby Mosque, in Stockton-on-Tees, was daubed with Islamophobic graffiti that said ‘Muslim Cowards’.
Unwilling to be cowed by the vandalism, the mosque organised an open day, inviting people from the local community and anyone else who wanted to learn about Islam. The response was tremendous. Hundreds of people – from all faiths and backgrounds – came down, with one woman even bringing a tin of paint to cover the graffiti.
Suzanne Fletcher, 72, who attended the open day, said: ‘I wanted to take the opportunity to find out a little more about the Muslim faith. I thought it was really important to show solidarity because of the way they’ve been demonised in the press.’
Zakir Mahmoud, one of the organisers, explained why they decided to host it: ‘When something like this happens, the mosque and its community can take two responses. They can become very insular and people can keep themselves to themselves or they can do what this mosque did and say come and talk to us. That is the British way – to grab a cup of tea and a biscuit, sit down and talk through the issues.’
He added: ‘I can stand here on behalf of the Muslim community and say we completely condemn the attacks, they do not represent us in any way, shape or form and they go against everything we stand for.’
Given the turnout, it seems the vast majority of the public echo this statement.
Now to the second. On Sunday, a group of British Muslims gave 3,000 roses to people crossing London Bridge. Like Thornaby Mosque, they wanted to show people what Islam is truly about. And given the location, it allowed the many visiting tourists passing by to also see the true nature of London, where a vast mix of people contribute to some of the most vibrant communities of any capital.
We are currently really into some of the quotes from people who received a rose.
According to PA, Londoner Elida Ercolano was a bit emotional after receiving hers: ‘I think it’s lovely, it’s what London is actually about as a city.’
Nancy Cannata, 61, from the US, said: ‘It’s very nice to see. And I think it’s nice that they’re Muslims – it’s not everybody in the Muslim community carrying out these attacks. There are good and bad people in every religion, and I wish people could realise that.’
The gesture was called the 1,000 Roses London project, and the flowers were paid for by a crowdfunding campaign. Zakia Bassou, one of the organisers, said: ‘The whole concept is we are not going to let London Bridge, or any bridge, fall down.’
We feel that the words of Zakir Mahmoud, while only relating to Thornaby Mosque, could easily describe the impact of both events: ‘The British public have shown how wonderful they are – they have overcome hate with love. We felt the love of the British public today.’
Remember everyone: choose love <3