IN THE SPACE OF just a few days, public perceptions of Muslims in the UK have gone through a sea change. Wrongly vilified for spawning the attackers of London Bridge, the community is widely acknowledged as having saved lives in Grenfell Tower.
The Grenfell blaze began around 1am – when the many Muslim residents in the block were preparing to eat before daybreak renewed Ramadan fasting, and some were coming home from prayers at the Mosque. Many Muslim residents smelled smoke or saw the flames – and their immediate response was to run round banging on neighbours’ doors. This early warning was crucial in helping those residents who did get out in time to make their escape and save their lives.
The role of the Muslim community has been publicly acknowledged, with some eye witnesses telling the press that Muslims provide a “lifeline” during the incident. One said, “if it wasn’t for the Muslim Boys coming from prayers at the Mosque and waking people up, a lot more people would have been dead.”
Members of the wider community have also praised Muslims for being in the forefront of those helping on the ground. Mosques opened their doors to those who needed shelter – just as local churches and community centres did. Eye witnesses have praised groups of Muslim volunteers for bring round bottles of water – which were gratefully received by those who were exiting the burning, smoke-filled block.
Muslims also rallied round to donate food and emergency clothing at local collection points, and volunteers were distributing supplies to the shelters before the day got underway.
It has taken a tragedy to begin to bring landlord and government to account for leaving Grenfell Tower in an unsafe condition. It has taken a tragedy for the wider community to recognise the positive role which Muslims play in the community – and to find the need to speak out about it.
The way in which the Muslim community piled in to help is in sharp contrast to the actions of Britain First and similar organisations. Paul Golding, Leader of Britain First, tried to record a video rant against Muslims for being (collectively) behind the London Bridge attack a few days afterwards. He was immediately challenged by two women passers by, and a small and very diverse group soon gathered, all protesting and standing up for Muslim members of the community. Golding stood his ground briefly, before a car came to sweep him away. The right wing groups have, of course, not played any part in helping support the devastated Grenfell survivors.
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Human Aid Ramadan volunteers collect aid for Grenfell residents