English mosque responds to hostility with tea and biscuits

by Alex Whiting | @AlexWhi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:26 GMT

A cup of tea and plate of biscuits, London June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

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Mosque worshippers calm protesters, win praise for conflict resolution English-style

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Eleven mosques across Britain have been attacked since the killing of a British soldier in London last week, hacked to death by two men shouting Islamist slogans, and attacks on Muslims have soared, according to Faith Matters which monitors such crimes.

Against this backdrop a simple story of courage has emerged. I’d hesitate to call it conflict resolution English style, but it did involve tea.

When supporters of the far-right English Defence League called for a demonstration outside a small mosque last Sunday in York city, some 175 miles (280 km) north of London, worshippers emerged to offer the protesters cups of tea, and then invited them in to play football.

“Some people went over with cups of tea and biscuits, they were talking for about 30 or 40 minutes and then they came inside, which was a really, really beautiful thing," the BBC reported Imam Abid Salik as saying.

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said the mosque's response was "fantastic".

"Tea, biscuits and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views," he said.

In the end, only six people turned up to protest, and more than 100 supporters of the mosque also showed up, including local Anglican priest Tom Jones, who said the worshippers showed great moral and physical courage.

"I think the world can learn from what happened … on Sunday," he was reported as saying.

Local councillor Neil Barnes was also present. "I don't think I'll ever forget the day that the York mosque tackled anger and hatred with peace and warmth – and I won't forget the sight of a Muslim offering a protester tea and biscuits with absolute sincerity," he was reported as saying.

Lee Rigby, the 25-year-old soldier, was killed with a meat cleaver and knives near Woolwich Barracks in southeast London on May 22.

Witnesses said his attackers told bystanders they were acting in revenge for British wars in Muslim countries.