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The daughter of a Muslim man killed in a north London terror attack has given a moving and tearful tribute to him on the fifth anniversary of his death.
Makram Ali, 51, was killed in a terrorist attack near Finsbury Park Mosque five years ago.
Speaking at Finsbury Park Mosque, close to where the attack happened, Ruzina Akhtar remembered her father, Makram Ali, as ‘one of the most gentle human beings you could have met’.
Mr Ali, 51, died when Darren Osborne drove a hired van into worshipers outside the Muslim Welfare House shortly after evening Ramadan prayers on June 19 2017.
Ms Akhtar was joined by council and police officials including Matt Jukes, assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, in remembering her life on Sunday.
Fighting back tears, Ms Akhtar told them: ‘He has been tragically taken since us five years ago.
‘Our dad was the first and foremost one of the most gentle human beings you could have met, who always had a smile on his face and was cracking jokes at the most random of times to make others laugh.
“His death has left a black hole, but remembering his smile and his laugh, we surround that hole with more love for each other, as he would have wanted.”
Ms Akhtar said that she ‘as a Muslim woman’ wanted everyone to ‘express any Islamophobic behavior as it still exists to be addressed immediately’.
Mohammed Kozbar, president of Finsbury Park Mosque, told listeners that Islamophobia in the UK is “much worse now than it was five years ago” and Muslims still don’t feel safe.
Kozbar said: ‘The problem we are facing is that since this attack, not much has changed in the fight against Islamophobia.
“I remember the prime minister at the time, Theresa May, sitting in this room and promising that serious action and steps will be taken to tackle this disease that causes Islamophobia.
‘We still don’t have a definition of Islamophobia.
‘In fact, it is much worse now than it was five years ago, with the institutionalization of Islamophobia by this government and some sectors of the media.
“We as Muslims are still feeling the effects of this attack and we will not feel safe until Islamophobia is taken seriously by the authorities and the police.”
Toufik Kacimi, executive director of the Muslim Welfare House, where the terror attack took place, called for the “root cause” of Islamophobia to be addressed.
Paying tribute to Mr. Ali, he said: “For more than 20 years, he was always praying in the same place and many of us simply cannot forget that horrible night.”
“The incident that took his life also left many horrible memories that we cannot forget.”
He added: ‘This incident was trying to divide us but it actually brought us together, as you can see five years later we still come together today.
“British Muslims still think that Islam is not compatible with Europe.
“We have to tell them, educate them, that Islam is part of the fabric of this society, it is not a foreign religion that will go somewhere else.”
In a statement on Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “On the fifth anniversary of the horrific Finsbury Park terror attack, we remember Makram Ali, who tragically lost his life, and all the innocent Londoners who were injured after being deliberately attacked while leaving their mosque after Ramadan prayers.
“Our thoughts are with Makram’s family and all who were affected by this terrible attack.
‘London is united against terrorism. We will always celebrate and appreciate the incredible diversity of our city.
‘That senseless attack five years ago was an assault on our shared values of openness, freedom and respect.
“But the solidarity shown by all of our city’s communities in the aftermath of the attack showed that we will never let the terrorists win by dividing us.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added on Twitter: “Five years after this cowardly act of terrorism, my thoughts are with the family of Makram Ali and those affected by the Finsbury Park Mosque attack.
‘Freedom of worship and tolerance towards different religions are fundamental to our values.
‘Terrorists will never change our way of life.’
Osborne, from Cardiff, was convicted of terrorism-related murder and jailed for life in February 2018.
Makram Ali Quick and Facts
- Five years after Finsbury Park terror attack, Ruzina Akhtar remembers late father
- ‘Our dad was one of the most gentle human beings you could have met’
- Makram Ali, 51, died when Darren Osborne drove a hired van into worshippers
- Ms Akhtar was joined by council and police officials at remembrance ceremony