More than 30 organisations attended a community roundtable at Luton’s Discover Islam centre, following the terror attacks in New Zealand on 15th March.
The roundtable was organised by the Islamophobia Working group and hosted a diverse representation of the local community including the Mall, Luton Town Football Club, the University of Bedfordshire, Luton and Dunstable Hospital Bedfordshire Fire Service, Luton Sixth Form College, Luton Clinical Commissioning Group, St Mary’s Church, Bedfordshire Police, Luton Borough Council, Luton Council of Faiths, Active Luton and a number of Headteachers.
Fifty people were killed and another forty-eight wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand’s deadliest attack. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a terrorist attack and one of the countries “darkest days”. The gunman live-streamed the rampage at Al Noor mosque to Facebook and circulated a detailed manifesto to the Prime Ministers office minutes before the attacks. The manifesto espoused racist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic views.
Led by members of Luton mosques, the meeting discussed community sentiments following the attacks, current responses and collaborative initiatives which could be undertaken to stamp out Islamophobia across the town. Beyond expressions of solidarity, the roundtable shared positive action since the attack in private, public and third sector organisations ranging from assemblies, increased vigilance, counselling and community planning. A number of ideas were also shared about closer working, workplace policy and practise reviews and promotion of the activities of the Islamophobia working group.
Principal and CEO of Luton Sixth Form College, Altaf Hussain, said “Our conversation was the continuation of our journey and we all felt something remarkable will grow and spread from our discussions.”
Tracey Bateman, Business Manager at the Mall, said “the roundtable was certainly thought-provoking and makes you realise that we all need to work together to make the world a better place. I was very inspired by the ideas and thoughts the group came up with.”
Rehana Faisal of the Sunni Council of Mosques also expressed how this had been a productive discussion and positive step forward in raising awareness about Islamophobia and introducing measures to counter it.
Deputy chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, Garry Forsyth, said “This meeting was a real demonstration of the fact that our diversity is our strength and enhances our society and I welcome the chance to further improve the good work that is already done in partnership to protect the people that live, work and visit Luton and Bedfordshire.”