Liverpool’s politicians and faith leaders have urged solidarity in the face of division after reports of Islamophobic attacks following a suspected suicide bombing in the city.
Multi-faith representatives delivered a joint statement of solidarity outside Liverpool women’s hospital on Tuesday, where a car was blown up on Sunday.
The Rev Canon Dr Crispin Pailing, the rector of Liverpool, said the attack had “shocked people of every faith – and those of no faith – across the city”. Ha aggiunto: “Terrorism is an indiscriminate act against people of all faiths and backgrounds. It seeks to destroy our lives of peaceful coexistence and disrupt the functioning of society.”
Leyla Mashjari, an associate director of Al-Ghazali Multicultural Centre, representing Liverpool’s Muslim community, disse: “At this difficult time let us remember that there is more that unites than divides us.”
She said she had heard indirect reports of Islamophobia since the weekend. “We haven’t heard directly from people but it’s going around the city that a few ladies have had scarves pulled off, issues like that. So what we are trying to do is get the word out that we are working with organisations including the city council, and that people should report these crimes rather than just ignore them," lei disse.
Asylum seekers in Liverpool felt particularly vulnerable, she added. Emad al-Swealmeen, the 32-year-old who died when a bomb he is thought to have made detonated, is thought to have been seeking asylum in the UK.
Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, which includes the Rutland Avenue address where police investigating the bombing have seized a significant amount of material, told MPs in the Commons that her team had also heard about incidents where women wearing hijabs had faced abuse.
“We must remain alert but not alarmed. We must stay calm, look after each other and pull together as the great diverse city we are and not allow anyone to exploit this situation to divide us,” Johnson said.
Two days after armed police stormed 2 Sutcliffe Street in the Kensington area of the city, the Merseyside police chief constable, Serena Kennedy, spoke to affected residents alongside the Liverpool mayor, Joanne Anderson, and the police and crime commissioner, Emily Spurrell.
“People have been talking about how traumatic the experience was for them on Sunday and how they want to get back to some semblance of normal life,” said Anderson, a former Kensington resident.
People wanted answers to questions none of the officials could answer: how long had Swealmeen been plotting the attack? Who was he trying to kill? Was he working alone or with others? “There’s still a lot of questions about his motivation or if he was working with anyone else,” said Spurrell.
Her staff, along with local firefighters, were giving out leaflets from Stop Hate UK that said “faith is welcome – hate is not”. “This is a diverse street. We know there will be some community tensions in some parts of the city so we are encouraging people to come together and support each other,” Spurrell said.
The terraced streets of Kensington are home to many asylum seekers and refugees. Accommodation is cheap: a terrace house on Sutcliffe Street sold for £70,000 this year. Many are rented houses of multiple occupancy, though others, including Swealmeen’s former home, have been divided up into bedsits with their own doorbells.
Hassan, 16, from Iraq, arrived in the UK via a small boat just weeks ago and is living in supported accommodation for teenage asylum seekers around the corner from Sutcliffe Street. His housemates are Eritrean, Syrian and Sudanese. “I was shocked to hear about the hospital attack," Egli ha detto.
The MP for the area, Labour’s Paula Barker, said she knew Kensington residents would be “deeply troubled”.
“It is essential that this community is supported and listened to now and in the future,” she told MPs. “I know ordinary scousers in all their diversity will play their part, however small, in remaining vigilant, avoiding spreading misinformation and sowing division online or within our communities.”