A Muslim prayer leader has said he forgives his attacker after returning to the mosque where he was stabbed.
Raafat Maglad, who is in his 70s, told how he was left with a “very deep cut” to his neck after he was knifed from behind on Thursday afternoon.
He was rushed to hospital but returned to the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park less than 24 hours later for Friday prayers.
A 29-year-old man is in custody after he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after he was tackled by worshippers.
With his right arm in a sling and a bandage over his wound, 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.”
The muezzin, who makes the call to prayer, was stabbed at around 3pm in an attack the Metropolitan Police is not treating as terror-related.
Mr Maglad, who is originally from Sudan, said he had seen the attacker previously worshipping at the mosque.
“He hit me. I just felt blood flowing from my neck and that’s it, they rushed me to the hospital. Everything happened all of a sudden,” he said.
Mr Maglad, who has been the muezzin for 30 years, said that 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.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan praised Mr Maglad after meeting him as he attended Friday prayers.
“He was keen to return to the mosque and he is quite clear he is not going to allow this attack to stop him going about his business,” he said.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan joins the Director General Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan and thousands of worshippers at London Central Mosque supporting the community after yesterday’s attack pic.twitter.com/ixLCKcPT8O— LondonCentral Mosque (@iccukorg) February 21, 2020
The stabbing, following a string of attacks on places of worship around the world, has prompted safety fears.
Director General Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan said “everybody is worried” since the incident, which took place at a mosque that attracts around 2,000 people every Friday for midday prayers.
“These kind of attacks sometimes are copied by some people and that’s why we are worried,” he said.
He said those in charge will “evaluate” the level of security at the mosque, which already has CCTV cameras operating 24 hours a day.
“We learn from anything that happens, either here or anywhere else, trying to be better for the next thing. I hope there will be no next,” he added.
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%.”
The mayor said there was a heightened police presence on Friday to provide reassurance and prevent copycat attacks.
He said: “I spoke to the deputy commissioner today, he’s reassured me that across London there is an increased police presence today, not because we have any intelligence at all about the risk of any attacks, there’s no heightened risk. But it’s for reassurance and also to avoid any so-called copycat attacks as well.”