'An eight year-old girl. Not even an animal would do this' - Muslims leaders in Manchester condemn concert terror attack
Leading members of the Muslim community in Manchester have condemned the terror attack that claimed 22 lives, saying that the attacker will be "insignificant" in history.
They added that religious gatherings which are suspected of including hate speeches should be monitored by the police and those responsible "brought to justice".
It comes as police confirmed the identity of the attacker as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British-born suicide bomber responsible for the worst terror attack on British soil in over a decade.
The attacker was raised in a Muslim household, but religious leaders said that he did not represent the Muslim fate.
The UK's terror-level has also been raised to 'critical' in recent hours, meaning that a further terror attack is not only likely but imminent.
Religious leaders this morning spoke of their disbelief as they gathered at the Darul Aman Mosque in Manchester.
"The more I think of it, it's heartbreaking. An eight year-old girl. Not even an animal would do this," Imam Muhammad Khursid said.
"We are going to a school later to give a talk. This how we promote Islam, not by attacking children but by talking to them."
"One person does not signify that he represents all of Islam. One person is one person and he can not be a role model for all Muslims.
"This person who carried out this awful attack, I wish he knew the true peaceful teaching of Islam. So one person is, it is very unfortunate that he took this route but the other Muslims should be... the public knows that other Muslims are very active in society," he said.
"Just from my community I can say that on the night of this attack we had taxi drivers who gave free rides, to those people affected- children who didn't have parents around them who were worried - they gave them free rides.
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"Our spiritual leader has openly said that they (police) should be monitoring mosques if there are hate speeches and they should be condemned. If this is so, they should be brought to justice because Muslims or non-Muslims this is not acceptable," Imam Khursid added.
"Everyone just started running. People were screaming and crying." Eyewitnesses describe the moments after an explosion hit Manchester arena pic.twitter.com/C7eoNU5qjD— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) May 23, 2017
The armed police presence in the city has increased further since the terror threat level was raised, while the scene around the Manchester Arena remains sealed-off.
In total 22 people have been confirmed dead while another 59 are seriously injured in hospital. This morning, three more people were arrested in Manchester City Centre, in relation to the terror attack. It brings to four the total number of people who are being questioned by police after a 23-year-old male was detained yesterday.
Asked if he was concerned about the possibility of negative reaction against Muslims, he said: "There is a natural reaction. People are worried, people are concerned but I think events like yesterday when the Mayor of Manchester did a great thing with this vigil, with the thousands of people who turned up- it was a great opportunity to show that the city of Manchester will rise higher than before.
"Regardless of who you are, where you are from. This city is Manchester and it will rise again, and these people who carried out these attacks, whoever they may be, whatever their agenda, they will be insignificant in the city of Manchester."
Members of various religious groups including representatives of the Sikh community spoke out against the attack at a peace vigil in Albert Square yesterday evening.
In a defiant call, the Bishop of Manchester Rev David Walker told the crowd: "You can not defeat us because love is always stronger that hate. We will pull together because we stand together. Whatever our background, our religion, our beliefs, our politics, we wil stand together because this city is greater than those that align itself against it."