London mosque stabbing: Muslim prayer leader says he forgives attacker who slashed him in the neck

Chiara Giordano
Prayer leader Raafat Maglad, who was stabbed in the neck by an attacker at London Central Mosque, said he forgave his attacker as he returned for prayers less than 24 hours later, 21 February 2020: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

A Muslim prayer leader stabbed in the neck inside a mosque has said he forgives his attacker.

Raafat Maglad, who is in his 70s, checked himself out of hospital and returned to London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park for afternoon prayers, less than 24 hours after being stabbed there.

A 29-year-old man is in custody after he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after he was tackled by worshippers.

With a dressing still on the “very deep cut” on his neck and his right arm in a sling, Mr Maglad told reporters: “I forgive him. I feel very sorry for him.”

He added: “What is done is done, he is not going to return.

“He is a human being and this is my faith. What happened to me is my faith.”

The muezzin, who makes the call to prayer, was stabbed from behind at about 3pm in an attack the Metropolitan Police is not treating as terror-related.

Mr Maglad, who is originally from Sudan, said he thought he had seen the attacker previously worshipping at the mosque.

Describing how the attack unfolded, he said: “We were praying and I just felt somebody hit me from behind. He didn’t say anything.

Stab victim prayer leader Raafat Maglad speaks to media at London Central Mosque, near Regent's Park, where a man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, 21 February 2020. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

“I just felt blood flowing from my neck and that’s it, they rushed me to the hospital. Everything happened all of a sudden.”

Mr Maglad, who has been the muezzin for 30 years, said as a Muslim he does not hold any hatred in his heart and that it was “very important” for him to attend Friday prayers.

“If I miss it, I just miss something very important. It is very important for us as Muslims,” he added.

The stabbing, following a string of attacks on places of worship around the world, has prompted safety fears.

Shaukat Warraich, chief executive of non-theological group Faith Associates, said Muslim worshippers are now “looking over their shoulders” as they come to prayer.

He said: “Regent’s Park is the most iconic mosque in London because of its size and location, but it is probably also the most secure in terms of what they have and resources and manpower.

“But, generally, mosques are soft targets. Most don’t have any security apart from some CCTV.

“What we are seeing now is definitely a change in behaviour – women have stopped going and some children too, they have been advised by the menfolk not to come to prayer in the evenings and to worship at home instead, because there are concerns about being attacked at prayer or on the way to the mosques.

“People are looking over their shoulders, 100 per cent.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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