The month’s of April and May are a sombre time in the history of our nation. Last April, towards the end of the month, a grandfather returning from praying at his local mosque was brutally murdered and no thought was given to the dying grandfather as his assailant continued with his attack on the elderly pious man. That assailant, the law found to be Ukrainian self radicalised neo-Nazi, Pavlo Lapshyn.
Mohammed Saleem, was, for all intents and purposes, a grandfather who doted over his grandchildren and a man who his daughters say, encouraged them to excel in all they did. According to one of his daughters, Islam for Mr Saleem meant enlightenment, education and gaining knowledge and his legacy is alive and well in his family who tirelessly fought for justice and to bring the killer of their father to book.
We have been honoured to get to know one of the daughters of Mr Saleem, albeit briefly, and what we have found has been a formidable, proud and tenacious campaigner for justice. Family members have discussed the traumas that they went through as police did not initially have any leads, (and this went on for some time), and family members also had to manage their information needs whilst being pushed and pulled between Counter Terrorism (CT) and the West Midlands Police. Yet, what has been the most touching has been the story of the life of Mohammed Saleem, a quiet, religious man who found solace and peace in his faith later in life. His family say that his wisdom and his love for people shone through and it is something that has touched us. We are therefore honoured to remember the life of Mohammed Saleem at our forthcoming annual dinner this coming Thursday. Within Islam, we say, ‘To God we belong, and to Him we will return.’
Drummer Lee Rigby
Let us also not forget that dark day on the 22nd of May 2013 when a young man walking the streets of Woolwich, lost his life in a pre-meditated murder by two extremists. The death of Lee sent a shudder through our nation not only in the callousness of it, but that it had been conducted by two people who lived in the UK. They had also carried out the murder in broad daylight and in the streets of the capital.
Let us also not forget that the anti-Muslim backlash after the murder could have been far worse if the family of Lee Rigby had not asked for calm and that no-one be harmed in the name of Lee. This single dignified act by a family in mourning, we believe, probably saved the lives of others as the English Defence League and extremists attacked mosques and Islamic institutions. In total, 8 weeks after the murder of Lee Rigby, over 30 mosques across England and Wales had been attacked.
We must also not forget the actions of the police in taking charge of the situation after the killing of Lee and ensuring that there was a heavy police presence in areas where there was the potential of flashpoints. Yet, in all of this, we must remember the family of Lee who live with the legacy of a loved one they cannot touch, and we must remember that extremism still remains a threat to us all, our cohesion and our long-term futures.
This Thursday, we will remember Lee and ensure that we hold a minute’s silence for Lee and for Mohammed Saleem. They may have been two people on parallel paths, yet in death, they bring us together. There can be no fitting a memorial than this.