It is very cold and, with the help of the wind and the masks, practitioners do not stop to chat outside the Finsbury Park Mosque. For twenty years, it bears the scars of its recovery in 1997 by the Islamist preacher Abu Hamza Al Masri. He made it one of the hubs of radicalism, and even of British Islamist terrorism.
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Despite his arrest in 2004 and the change of management imposed by the new leaders of the mosque in 2006, this place remains, in the minds of the British, linked to violence. So much so that he is regularly targeted by the extreme right.
On June 19, 2017, one person died and ten others were injured after being run over by a driver. “Avenge” the British killed in three attacks carried out by Islamists in the previous weeks.
The daily life of Muslims has deteriorated in the UK
Like this mosque, the daily life of Muslims has deteriorated in the United Kingdom. “Over the years and the terrorist attacks carried out by evil Muslims, it has become increasingly difficult for Muslims to live their religion peacefully in the UK,” assures Ibrahim Mogra, imam of Leicester and member of the Muslim Council of England. “Islamophobic attacks are increasing against veiled women, bearded men dressed in tunics, while mosques are tagged. “
The Tell Mama organization, which records Islamophobic incidents, noted 839 in 2017, the year in which three Islamist terrorist attacks took place, and 745 in 2018 (excluding online incidents). His observation is that hatred has “Standardized”.
Ibrahim Mogra, very involved in ecumenical relations, assures us that this situation is relatively recent. “When I came to the UK in the 1980s there was racism but the attacks were related to skin color, not religion, he explains. The current wave has been helped by events outside the UK such as the war in Syria or Iraq.
But otherwise, the existence of a state religion – Anglicanism – in the country makes the practice of other religions much more natural, easier. As long as we obey the law, we are completely free to practice our religion, and even more so than in many Muslim majority countries. “
Religion in the public and political sphere is taken for granted
For most Britons, the presence of religion in the public and even political sphere is a given, and the example comes from the highest point of the state: the sovereign, in this case Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of the Anglican Church, whose archbishops and some bishops sit in the House of Lords. The royal family and the country’s leading politicians regularly attend church services together. There is therefore an institutional benevolence vis-à-vis religion and its practice.
The Church of England and its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, have even placed themselves at the service of British multiculturalism. Bishop Justin Welby is one of the main promoters of tolerance towards other religions and of deep ecumenical relations. He regularly appears alongside imams and rabbis. With the full support of government authorities.
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“The government has always tried to solve the terrorism problems linked to Islam without incriminating Muslims, even if the anti-terrorism policy has sometimes robbed and marginalized them, says Sara Silvestri, professor of political science at the City University of London, specializing in Islam and religions. There was never the will for a confrontation but on the contrary for an understanding and a cooperation. I was personally surprised to see that the state listens to all voices, even those of the most extreme Muslims, to understand their message. “
Bishop Justin Welby, “Remainer” from the start
In the presence of religious representatives, the government and the royal family, Bishop Welby was inducted, in March 2013, 105e Archbishop of Canterbury. Since 2016, this notorious supporter of staying in the EU has repeatedly opposed radical Brexiters. “Those who campaign for a no-deal exit must prove that it won’t hurt the poorest, and the most vulnerable!” “, had he hammered in the House of Lords.
Three great Christian entities
– The Anglican Communion. Across the Channel, only the Church of England is considered a State Church; its other British counterparts – the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Ireland – are not considered established. Today England and Wales have nearly 25 million baptized faithful.
– Catholic Church. In the United Kingdom, it is organized around eight ecclesiastical provinces and 38 dioceses, for nearly 4.2 million Catholics. The current president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (CBCEW) is Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.
– The “non-conformist” churches. It is those – Calvinist, Presbyterian, Baptist… – who refused to follow, in England, the doctrine of the Anglican Church. Very in the minority, most of them are now experiencing significant erosion.