I Am Birmingham – Birmingham unites for victims of terror attacks

The people of Birmingham paid their respects to the innocent lives lost in recent terrorist attacks, at a candlelight vigil in St Philips Square.

The Birmingham branch of national charity Citizens UK held a vigil last night to remember the 129 people who died in Paris on Friday, following a terrorist attack on the city; and also for the hundreds who were murdered in Beirut, Baghdad and Kenya recently.

Candles, banners and posters were placed together at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Candles, banners and posters were placed together at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Hundreds of people took part in a minute’s silence, laid flowers and candles; and heard speeches from leaders of different faith groups. Posters and placards featuring peace signs and the hashtags #Solidarity and #NoToTheRacistBacklash were also held aloft during the vigil before being placed beside a French flag and tea-lights.

Makhdoom Chisti from Birmingham Central Mosque described the murderous tirade in Paris, led by terror group Daesh (ISIL/ISIS), as “senseless and did not represent Islam”. He fears Muslims are facing a backlash in this difficult time for all.

Makhdoom Chishti from the Birmingham Central Mosque attends the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Makhdoom Chishti from the Birmingham Central Mosque attends the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

He said: “Islam does not allow any Muslims to take the lives of innocent people regardless of their beliefs. We strongly condemn this incident.

“The killing of one innocent person is a murder of an entire humanity.”

Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart addressed the crowd at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart addressed the crowd at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

A blessing was led by the Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart.

He said: “This is a very solemn evening. We have gathered from all of our communities, traditions and backgrounds in our grief and in our dismay that there has been even more killing.”

“Terrorists seek to cause division and hatred and when we stand in peace and unity we refuse to let them win.”

Around 200 people attended the peace vigil 'for Paris' in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Around 200 people attended the peace vigil ‘for Paris’ in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

An interfaith statement was read aloud by attendees at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

An interfaith statement was read aloud by attendees at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The peace vigil was organised Lozells resident Saidul Haque Saeed, of Citizens UK Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The peace vigil was organised Lozells resident Saidul Haque Saeed, of Citizens UK Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The flag of France was surrounded by candles and messages as a mark of respect following the Paris terror attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The flag of France was surrounded by candles and messages as a mark of respect following the Paris terror attacks(Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Former Lord Mayor and current Labour councillor Shafique Shah attended the vigil to show solidarity.

He said: “The most important thing is today we have people from all faiths here and everyone is condemning these acts of terrorism.

Mr Shah does not believe the recent terrorist attacks have changed public opinion of refugees and states Birmingham City Council is committed to housing 50 Syrian refugees in the upcoming months.

He said: “In Birmingham we have a strong history of offering sanctuary to people looking for a better way of life.”

Former city council leader Sir Albert Bore attended the candle-lit vigil for peace in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Former city council leader Sir Albert Bore attended the candle-lit vigil for peace in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Salma Yaqoob (right) seen here with Danny Rees and Adam Yosef from Stand Up To Racism (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Salma Yaqoob (right) seen here with Danny Rees and Adam Yosef from Stand Up To Racism (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Chairman of the Nishkam group, Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, shares a message of peace for the victims of the Paris and Beirut attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Chairman of the Nishkam group, Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, shares a message of peace for the victims of the Paris and Beirut attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

The following statement was read out by all those who had attended the vigil:

“As citizens of Birmingham and as people from all faiths and none we have been horrified by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims and families at this traumatic and difficult time.

Knowing that this comes soon after the tragedies of the Russia airline, the bombing in Beirut and the ongoing conflicts in many countries including Iraq, Syria and Yemen deepens our grief.

We are gathered this evening to grieve and to show our compassion and solidarity with those innocent victims of the attacks.

We stand together for peace in our city, not allowing these events to drive us apart. We will not hold people here to account for the actions of others but commit to continuing our work to make Birmingham a place of safety and welcome for all.”

Candles were lit outside the Birmingham Cathedral as part of the peace vigil following international terrorist attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Candles were lit outside the Birmingham Cathedral as part of the peace vigil following international terrorist attacks(Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Anti-war, anti-racism and pro-refugee banners made up part of the tribute to the victims of the recent attacks (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Anti-war, anti-racism and pro-refugee banners made up part of the tribute to the victims of the recent attacks(Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Rabbi Margaret Jacobi shares a moment with a Salvation Army volunteer at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Rabbi Margaret Jacobi shares a moment with a Salvation Army volunteer at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Geoff Dexter and Adam Yosef of Stand Up To Racism Birmingham hold signs at the peace vigil in Birmingham (Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Geoff Dexter and Adam Yosef of Stand Up To Racism Birmingham hold signs at the peace vigil in Birmingham(Photograph: Paul Stringer)

Also in attendance were representatives from the Jewish community including Ruth Jacobs and Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, Chairman of the Nishkam group Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh, prominent anti-war campaigner Salma Yaqoob, Dean of Birmingham Cathedral Catherine Ogle, former city council leader Sir Albert Bore and members of Stand Up To Racism Birmingham, a group promoting community cohesion and solidarity with refugees.

Maz Saleem, daughter of the late Mohammed Saleem who was murdered in an Islamophobic attack in the city two years ago, said in a Stand Up To Racism statement:

“My deepest sympathies and condolences go to all those that lost loved ones and were injured in the attacks in Paris and Beirut. I feel very strongly about such incidents because my father was murdered by a Ukrainian fascist terrorist and I am still struggling to cope with this tragic loss in my family.

“I also feel strongly about these events because my father was a Muslim and he was murdered by a fascist terrorist who bombed mosques in the West Midlands. Quite rightly, we do not equate all white people with this terrorist, but why are all Muslims treated as potential terrorists?

“My father and my family are Muslims and the victims of terrorism. In August Mushin Ahmed an 81 year old Muslim pensioner was murdered in Rotherham. I fear there could be more similar attacks if the approach of depicting all Muslims as terrorists continues.

“We must stand up to such attacks and also the racism and Islamophobia that follows. Don’t let the racists divide us.”

The Library of Birmingham was lit up in French tricolore following attacks in paris (Photograph: Adam Yosef)

The Library of Birmingham was lit up in French tricolore following attacks in Paris (Photograph: Adam Yosef)

A peace poster displayed outside the Birmingham Central Mosque today, a day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad (Photograph: Adam Yosef)

A peace poster displayed outside the Birmingham Central Mosque today, a day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad (Photograph: Adam Yosef)

On Saturday, a day after the wave of attacks in Paris, the Library of Birmingham was lit up in the French Tricolore. The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Smethwick also paid tribute to the resilience of the French people by being lit up in red, white and blue. While in Highgate, condolences were shared at the Birmingham Central Mosque and at the Sultan Bahu Trust in Balsall Heath.

The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Smethwick, Birmingham, changed its lights to the French Tricolore

The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Smethwick, Birmingham, changed its lights to the French Tricolore

“We wish to share our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers, to the families and friends of those killed and injured in the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last night.

“We also stand in solidarity with the people of France and the world, who have been affected and are in mourning,” mosque Chairman Muhammad Afzal stated at an official press conference.

(Source: iambirmingham.co.uk)

Click here to read a message from Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji

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