A series of deadly terror attacks in Britain in recent weeks had left Muslims in north London fearing reprisals, but they never thought that violence would happen on their doorstep.
It was just after midnight on Monday when a van mounted the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of worshippers walking home from mosques in Finsbury Park following Ramadan prayers.
At least one man died and 10 others were injured in the attack, which police are now treating as a “terrorist incident.” A 48-year-old white man was wrestled to the ground by members of the public and arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder. He has since been detained on suspicion of terror offences.
Muna Mohammad was safe at home with her children when the attack unfolded nearby. Looking on at the scene from behind a police cordon hours later, holding her young son’s hand, Mohammad says her family left Mogadishu, Somalia, to escape violence like this.
“We came here to feel safe. But look, we aren’t safe. We’re sick and tired of terror. When I wake up and look at the news it’s always another attack. Why is this happening here in the UK?” Mohammad, 32, asked.
On Monday morning, suited commuters on their way to work and mothers dressed in hijabs, schoolchildren in tow, streamed in and out of Finsbury Park Underground Station, just around the corner from the scene of the attack. The crowd was a cross-section of this diverse London area, which, despite ever-increasing gentrification, is home to a wide array of nationalities and backgrounds.
The area is probably best known for Arsenal Football Club, and on game days at the nearby Emirates Stadium, the streets around this transit hub are awash with fans dressed in red and white.
On most Fridays, the faithful stream towards several mosques in the neighborhood, home to a large Muslim community of mostly North and West African descent.
“I pray in front of the mosque on Fridays, but when it’s full I pray in the street. In the back of my mind I’ve wondered if it’s safe,” Ali, who was at home during the attack, says.
“These days, a car is a weapon. It’s pretty scary.”
Many local residents were angered that the media took longer to use the word “terror attack” to describe what had happened here than it had two weeks ago, when three Muslim men rammed a van into crowds of people on London Bridge.
In a statement issued around six hours after the incident, Finsbury Park Mosque condemned the “heinous” act and said they were “extremely unhappy with the mainstream media not reporting this as a terrorist attack.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May said officers had decided to treat the incident as a terror attack within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call, but the Metropolitan Police only announced they were treating it as terrorism more than eight hours later.
Just three days ago, an Is