Security at mosque must be improved after attack on imam
Last week, I was at Southwark Crown Court to observe the harrowing trial of Brian Donegan, who launched a vicious unprovoked attack on the imam of Regent s Park mosque, Shiekh Mohammed El-Salamouni, last August. Sheikh El-Salamouni was left lying on the
Last week, I was at Southwark Crown Court to observe the harrowing trial of Brian Donegan, who launched a vicious unprovoked attack on the imam of Regent's Park mosque, Shiekh Mohammed El-Salamouni, last August.
Sheikh El-Salamouni was left lying on the floor of the mosque with horrific injuries and is now blind.
In its symbolism to those in the Muslim community, the attack would be comparable for Christians to an attack on an archbishop at Westminster Cathderal.
To add to the community's distress, the fallout from the attack is that imams from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, who have provided us with the imams at Regent's Park for many years, could now leave London if the Egyptian authorities do not feel we can protect them from further attacks.
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It is of scant consolation to Sheikh El-Salamouni - but Mr Donegan will be imprisoned indefinitely in a secure hospital after he was declared insane by the court. His punishment and the fact that he will spend the rest of life behind bars needs to be properly explained to the local community and users of the mosque.
Some are concerned that the lack of a traditional "guilty" verdict means Mr Donegan has somehow got off lightly.
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This, of course, is not the case. It would take the intervention of the home secretary for Mr Donegan's sentence ever to be revisited. This is something I do not envisage happening and something I will do everything in my gift to prevent.
I have written to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to press home this fact and to emphasise to her that the likes of Mr Donegan must not be allowed to harm our excellent record of harmonious community relations here in London.
Clearly, in the meantime, security needs to be improved at Regent's Park mosque.
In light of this horrific experience, it is important that we at least have security outside the room when an imam is giving counsel - along the lines of that given to councillors during their surgeries.
On top of this, advice from the local police would be much appreciated.
I sincerely hope that this is not the prelude of us losing the Al-Azhar University imams at Regent's Park mosque.
Over the years, they have provided an invaluable service to the local Muslim community, stretching right back to the appointment of the much-respected Zaki Badawi as chief imam in 1978.
I have written to the foreign secretary outlining my concerns and to ask him to reassure the Egyptian authorities that their imams can in future continue to feel safe in London.
London Assembly member