Finsbury Park Terror Attack: The Right of Every Person to Worship in Safety is a Pillar of Our Democracy
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Finsbury Park Terror Attack: The Right of Every Person to Worship in Safety is a Pillar of Our Democracy

By Preetika Mathur, Writer 20 Jun 2017
Discrimination, Religion

One person has been killed and nine others injured in an attack outside the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, during the holy month of Ramadan.

In the early hours of Monday a van drove into worshipers emerging from evening prayers at Finsbury Park Mosque and, while information relating to the attack is still emerging, police have named 47-year-old Darren Osborne from Cardiff as the suspect.

The attacker was reported to have deliberately targeted Muslims, with onlookers saying he shouted: “I’m going to kill all Muslims.” Within eight minutes Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack was being investigated as terrorism, saying:

This [attack] on the streets of our capital city [is] every bit as sickening as those which have come before.

Any attempt to divide our communities according to their religion or to stop people from worshipping freely undermines one of the most important pillars of our democracy – the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Protected by Article 9 of The Human Rights Convention, this includes the freedom for people of all faiths to worship in safety. It protects our ability to define who we are, as well as a our ability to choose the kind of life we want to live.

Ancient Origins to Freedom

Image: Rebecca Wright / CNN / Twitter

Article 9 has a long history that links it to multiple faiths. Its origin lies in the 1100 Charter of Liberties that protected Church Ministers and later, in 1647, The Levellers demanded freedom of conscience after the English Civil War.

After the horrors of the holocaust perpetrated against the Jewish people, the right to freedom of thought conscience and religion was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The right protects the ability of 33.2 million Christians, 2.7 million Muslims, 0.82 million Hindus, 0.42 million Sikhs as well as 14.4 million atheists in the UK to safely express their beliefs. This includes through worship, as well as through refraining from worshiping.

A healthy democracy requires that every community – including minority communities – are able to enjoy rights on an equal basis with other communities. This includes the right to worship, which is also protected by the right to be protected against discrimination.

A Defiant Response

Image Credit: Anita Singh / Twitter @anitathetweeter

Political and religious leaders from all faiths have rallied around those affected to express solidarity. Leaders from the Sikh, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and Muslim Faiths have all condemned the attack. They also expressed their resolve to continue to strengthen the pre-existing harmonious relationships between all communities in London.

Justin Wellby, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the attack was “abhorrent”, adding he stood in “solidarity with our Muslim friends and pray for the bereaved and injured”.

Similarly, Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, added: “This is a painful illustration of why we must never allow hatred to breed hatred. It creates a downward spiral of violence and terror with only further death and greater destruction. May each of us resolve to respond to this latest tragedy with the same compassion and determination not to be divided.”

Whatever religion you follow – even if it’s none at all – our right to religious freedom is one of the most basic rights we own. While our beliefs may differ, our right to believe and practice whatever religion we chose is what will continue to unite us.

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Featured Image Credit: Charlie Robertson / Twitter @rencapman

About The Author

Preetika Mathur Writer

Preetika holds a law degree from the University of Oxford and an LLM from The LSE. She has previously worked at UN Women, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and in the Office of the UN Secretary General. Preetika has also represented numerous individuals in Social Security Tribunal Hearings and is training to be a barrister.

Preetika holds a law degree from the University of Oxford and an LLM from The LSE. She has previously worked at UN Women, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and in the Office of the UN Secretary General. Preetika has also represented numerous individuals in Social Security Tribunal Hearings and is training to be a barrister.