Call for calm as religious and community leaders show unity

By Ian Rosser Religious and community leaders in Leeds have called for calm in the aftermath of the London bombings.

A meeting at the Hamara Centre, in Tempest Road, Beeston, was held yesterday just a few hundred yards from the home of suicide bomb suspect Shehzad Tanweer.

Chair Hanif Malik, director of the centre, said he had never come across extremist Muslims and had been shocked that Leeds had been the home city of the bombers.

"As a lifelong resident of Leeds, and someone who has resided within this locality for many, many years, I can honestly say I have never come across any radical elements whatsoever. We have always prided ourselves on the fact Leeds is a very multi-faith, multi-ethnic city."

Reading from a statement, said to represent the Leeds Muslim Community, Mr Malik said: "We are deeply shocked and saddened by the recent news that the chief suspects in the London bombings were from West Yorkshire.

"We as a community would like to extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to the injured and the bereaved. We as British Muslims recognise that such outrages have no place in Islam or British society and totally condemn such acts."

He added: "We would like to urge calm in the community on all sides and thank members of the wider community in West Yorkshire for their continued support.

"We encourage everyone to let the police and other agencies do their job without hindrance and thank the police for their continued vigilance in maintaining safety within our community. Now is time for moderation, unity and sensitivity on all sides."

Mr Malik was joined by Dr Hassan Alkatib, chairman of the Leeds Muslim Forum, Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds Arthur Roache, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds John Packer, methodist minister Rev Neil Bishop and City and Hunslet Leeds City Councillor Mohammed Iqbal.

Rev Roche said: "In a sense, apart from the circumstances that have brought us together today, it is a continuation of the relationship and dialogue that has long existed in this community and bears witness to the good relations and friendship that exists between our diverse communities.

"We consider ourselves to be part of one family and it is our desire to continue our work for that understanding, mutual appreciation and support.

"We are confident that the firm foundations of the past will hold us together in good stead for the future of all our communities."

Rev Bishop said the community would continue to build on the good relationships it had built up in the past.

"People here have lived side by side in total tolerance and acceptance," he said. "This building (the Hamara Centre) was an example of the tolerance and working together to improve the community.

"We are devastated this has happened, but it is not going to stop us going on. We will carry on the work we were doing before. We were a united community then and we are a united community now."

ian.rosser@ypn.co.uk