A NORTH London imam who defended an attacker who drove a van into people outside a mosque is being hailed as a hero for saving his life.
Imam Mohammed Mahmoud stepped in to protect the driver of the white van after he hit one person and injured 10 just after midnight on Sunday in Finsbury Park, Islington.
The 48-year-old driver was pinned down by the angry crowd after reportedly yelling "I want to kill all Muslims" in chaotic scenes recorded and posted online.
Mr Mahmoud said he ran outside the mosque to find the driver on the ground with people trying to kick him.
"We managed to surround him. We stopped all forms of attack and abuse,' he said.
They also flagged a passing police van and bundled the man into the back telling police: "There's a mob attempting to hurt him, If you don't take him, god forbid he might be seriously hurt."
"That's all that we did. It wasn't me alone, there was a group of brothers....who were calm and collected enough to calm people down and extinguish any flames of anger that would have taken charge."
Mr Mahmoud said the van was travelling fast enough to knock people sideways and had driven deliberately into the crowd. He also said "all life is sacred" and he hoped the tragedy would unite people and "keep the fabric of this society in tact."
Witness Hussein Ali said a crowd had gathered around the attacker before the leaders of the mosque stepped in and told others "you don't touch."
A shopkeeper who was there at the time said the imam had potentially saved his life, such was the anger of the crowd, as people lay bleeding around them.
"The guy was very lucky," he said. "He would have died today, so many people were punching him. If he wasn't there, the guy wouldn't be here today."
London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised Mr Mahmoud for calming the situation.
"The Imam Mohammed did a really good job in calming things down," he said. "Justice can be done instead of people taking things into their own hands."
The Muslim Welfare House also praised him in a statement, saying: "We would like to particularly thank our Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, whose bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life.
"All of us at Muslim Welfare House sends our thoughts and prayers to the victims and those injured in the major incident at Finsbury Park.
"The Muslim Community in this area is horrified at this incident and is concerned and shocked at the events.
"We have worked very hard over decades to build a peaceful and tolerant community here in Finsbury Park and we totally condemn any act of hate that tries to drive our wonderful community apart."
It comes as locals fear further attacks in the nation that has suffered four terror attacks in three months including at London Bridge, Manchester and Westminster.
Locals at the scene said they feared "hate against hate" breeding in the community.
"I'm scared for my life. I don't know what's going on in London," said the shopkeeper who witnessed the events.
It has also sparked anger from some who claim police were slow to respond in calling it a "terror attack".
Terrorism Analyst Michael S Smith II posted an example of pro-Islamic State message boards on Telegram asking why the attackers were shot in the Borough Market attack but not during this one.
"Oh Muslims you need to wake up the war is now starting in your own streets," says one of the messages on there.
UPDATE Example of posts re Finsbury Park incident on pro-Islamic State Telegram channels following suggestions the driver is not a Muslim pic.twitter.com/oSBJ5T8Otl— Michael S. Smith II (@MichaelSSmithII) June 19, 2017
Security agencies are expected to be on high alert for the last 10 days of Ramadan which are the most religiously significant, particularly the "Night of Power" due to fall on June 21.
The date is otherwise known as Laylat al-Qadr, and marks when verses of the Koran were revealed to Mohammed.
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