The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, today hosted a community event in London where political and religious leaders joined together to show solidarity between people of all faiths and none in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Timed ahead of the bank holiday weekend and Friday prayers, the event showed communities celebrating their strength and unity in mutual support.
The speakers at the Hugh Cubitt Peabody Centre in Islington were the Deputy Prime Minister, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, Conservative whip Lord Tariq Ahmad, former Army captain Afzal Amin, imam Shaykh Shams ad-Duha Muhammad of Ebrahim College and the co-chairs of Faith Forum for London, Canon Guy Wilkinson and Leonie Lewis.
Also in attendance were Colonel Hugh Bodington, Chief of Staff of the Army Headquarters at London District, and Commander Mak Chishty of the Metropolitan Police, who has been the force’s community liaison for the events in Woolwich.
Representatives of London’s political leaders included Damian Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly, Andrew Boff, leader of the Assembly’s Conservative group, Jenny Jones, leader of the Green Party Group and Stephen Knight, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group. The local MP Emily Thornberry also took part, along with Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Tom Brake.
Transcript of the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech
Can I thank you all very, very much for being here and can I thank, particularly, everybody at the Hugh Cubitt Centre, all the volunteers here, everyone from the Peabody operation. You’ve helped us to organise this at very, very short notice indeed.
It was a suggestion made to me by friends of mine in the London Muslim community just yesterday, that we should get together at a time of obviously heightened anxiety, given the horrific events in Woolwich. And to be able to gather together like this, given how busy everybody is, is a real tribute to everybody at the centre, and indeed to all of you.
We are represented here in all of the wonderful diversity that we know is modern London: different political parties, different faiths, different communities, representatives from the armed services, from the police. I really am very, very grateful to you all for being here. And I hope that – in fact I know that I speak on behalf of everybody here when I say that my heart goes out and my thoughts are with the family and the friends of Drummer Lee Rigby, who as so brutally and savagely killed in Woolwich.
I think in many ways, the fact that we’ve come together is much more important than what anyone’s actually going to say at the event because the fact that we’re here together from so many different directions, from so many parts of the diversity that is London is a – sends out a message.
It sends out a very, very simple message of hope over fear, of community over division and that is immensely important. I think that you’ve done all of that and that by coming together in that way, by sending out that clear signal, you really have provided a great service to all of the communities who are asking themselves searching questions in London and across the country today.
Because let’s be clear. People who inflict such random, savage violence in the name of some entirely warped ideology or some entirely perverted concept of religion in the way that we have seen on our television screens – which has been made all the more unsettling I think, because the individuals concerned dressed, spoke, appeared to all intents and purposes like so many other young Londoners that we might come across every day of the week.
Let’s be under no illusion. What they want, of course, is to sow that corrosive seed of fear and division. What they want is for governments and the authorities to overreact in their immediate reaction. What they want is for communities to turn inwards and away from each other. What they want, in short, is to spread fear.
Fear is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and when fear takes root, all of us as individuals, we will avert our gaze from someone who we might be fearful of, who we weren’t before. We might cross the street away from an individual who we’re not so sure about. We might worry about our children and about our families in a way that we haven’t done before.
It has a very, very corrosive effect on every part of our lives and we have a choice. We have a choice to either allow that powerful corrosive feeling of fear to seep into every second and minute and hour of our lives or we can make a choice that we’re not going to change our behaviour. We’re not going to disrupt normal life. We’re going to continue our life as before. We’re going to continue to reach out to each other. We’re going to continue to look people in the eye. We’re going to continue to be the diverse community that we are, and you have made that choice by coming to this event.
London has made that choice by celebrating this kind of event and it has shown once again how unbeatable London is in the face of this attempt to sow fear, sow division and sow mutual suspicion in our community. So I want to pay genuine tribute, to each and every one of you for making that choice. It is a positive choice and is the most powerful dignified reply and rejection of what we saw and what we heard on Wednesday in Woolwich.
Finally, before I ask the Deacon and others to speak for themselves, I want to pay special tribute to those amongst you who are leaders and spokespeople of our Muslim communities. The fact that all of you who’ve spoken out so very clearly and so very cogently and so very quickly to reject it utterly. As the Prime Minister quite rightly said, what we heard from these two individuals was a total unqualified betrayal of Islam, a religion of peace was being distorted, turned upside down and inside out, perverted in the cause of an abhorrent and violent set of intentions from those individuals.
As I heard from someone in a discussion we just had earlier this morning, terrorism has no religion because there is no religious conviction that can justify the kind of arbitrary, savage, random violence that we saw on the streets of Woolwich. So thank you for speaking out as forcefully as you have done. Thank you for speaking out as clearly as you have done for a great salvation religion, for your faith, and for the communities in which you live and in which you lead.
And in that spirit I would like to simply conclude by repeating a verse from the holy Quran, verse 32, chapter five. If anyone kills a human being, it shall be as though he killed all mankind, whereas if anyone saves a life it shall be as though he saved the whole of mankind.
Thank you very much.