Manchester Muslim leader: Muslims should not have to apologize for extremists

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Muslim leaders in Manchester are expressing concern over alleged Islamophobic incidents in the city following Monday’s suicide bombing that killed 22 people and injured 59. ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber, is believed to have prayed at the Manchester Islamic Centre in Didsbury. Fawzi Haffar, a trustee at the mosque said, “We are concerned about reports we are receiving about anti-Muslim acts. These are terrible anti-Muslim acts ranging from verbal abuse to acts of criminal damage to mosques in the area and outside the area. We do encourage any incidents to be reported as a hate crime.”

Mohammed Ullah, Muslim chaplain at University of Manchester, claims to have heard reports of someone spitting at a Muslim girl and another Muslim being told to “go home.” Shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing, an arsonist allegedly set fire to a mosque in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

“We hear reports but many people are very scared to talk about the problem or they don’t want to cause a fuss,” Ullah told the Guardian. “We receive reports but I think incidents are under-reported. Islamophobic attacks have increased in the last few years exponentially. I tell Muslim students to report these hate incidents when they happen. Be vigilant against it and don’t allow hate to divide us.”

In an interview outside the Didsbury mosque, Haffar denied reports that Abedi had worked at the centre. “We express concern that a small section of the media are manufacturing stories and making unfounded points.”

Haffar called Monday’s attack a “horrific atrocity.”

“This act of cowardice has no place in our religion or any other religion,” he said, and urged anyone with relevant information to contact the police.

Ullah took issue with the idea that Muslims should be expected to apologize for the violence of extremists.

“I say to Muslims you should not have to apologize for the actions of individuals,” Ullah declared. “No other community has ever been held to account like this. Let me be clear – what happened on Monday was a crime of epic proportions. It was epic, evil and one we condemn with the strongest condemnation.

“But let’s also be clear about this – why do we then have to stand up and say ‘we apologize?’ It’s not my fault. It’s not the fault of the religion. We’re sick of having to apologize and being the first to condemn it. What more can we do? Tell me what more can we do?”

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