I’ve been haunted all weekend by just how close we came in Tipton at 1.06pm on Friday to someone – or more than one person – being maimed or killed.
You’ll all know from news reports of the nailbomb that went off precisely then near the Kanzul Iman Masjid mosque in Binfield Street at a time when it would normally been full of worshippers.
As I write police investigations are continuing and it’s too soon to know everything about something which bears all the hallmarks of a vile and cowardly attack.
But fair-minded people of all communities will rightly condemn it.
They will join me, too, in giving thanks that luckily – and it seems to be more by luck than judgement – no-one was hurt, or worse.
We must all support police as they continue their investigations. Our aim must be to bring those responsible to justice by tracking them down and putting them before the courts.
Inevitably, we all reflect on what such an outrage means for our community as a whole.
I believe we must all keep one thing uppermost in our minds – a determination not to allow the people who did this to succeed in their aim of dividing us.
Extremists on all sides hate unity and thrive on division.
We must deny them.
We are proud of the settled relations that communities in Tipton have enjoyed for many years.
Our best way of defeating extremism is to stay calm and make sure that those relations continue.
That’s why I’ve been heartened by the response to Friday’s attack from the mosque itself, from faith leaders from all religions and from members of the local community.
It’s been one of solidarity, togetherness and calm in the face of a shocking incident.
My fellow council member, Ian Jones, has said it’s been a case of “business as usual” – the best way to respond to those seeking to disrupt community life. I agree.
In this context, I can do no better than quote Imam Ghulam Rasool from the Kanzul Iman Masjid mosque, who said on Saturday:
“Yesterday a senseless act tried to divide us. Today, we respond united together and more determined to come out stronger in condemnation of extremism and in maintaining and further strengthening existing good community relations in the borough. For those who wish to divide us and fringe elements that may wish to exploit this situation we have this message:
“We are One Borough, One Community that remains united in defiance of extremism wherever it may come from; united in support of strong community and interfaith relations and united in our belief that this is a borough and country that values freedom of speech, expression and religious co-existence. Acts such as these will only strengthen our resolve and not break it.
“To the wider community we say this: Let’s continue to go about our lives not intimidated by fear or violence, not provoked by senseless acts of extremism or terrorism designed to undermine our borough’s harmony and cohesion.
“The people of Tipton and Sandwell will never succumb or be seduced to senseless acts or initiatives designed to spread fear, messages of hate and division that bring disharmony to our communities.”
NB: The council has been working behind the scenes since Friday to do what we can on the ground in Tipton to help.
Among other things we
- responded immediately to a police request to set up a rest centre at Coneygre Centre on Friday as a place for those who were evacuated from the scene to go to;
- supported police with signs for the road closures in the area cordoned off;
- found overnight accommodation for families who could not return to their homes; and
- supported police in getting messages and updates to the community via social media.