“Last week I was at Southwark Crown Court to observe the harrowing trial of Brian Donegan who last August launched a vicious unprovoked attack on the Imam of Regent’s Park mosque, Sheikh Mohammed El-Salamouni. Sheikh El-Salamouni was left lying on the floor of the mosque with horrific injuries and is now blind for life. In its symbolism to those in the Muslim community, the attack would be comparable for Roman Catholics to an attack on an archbishop at Westminster Cathedral. To add to the local community’s distress, the fall-out from the attack is that Imams from Al-Azhar University 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 they will be adequately protected in London.
“It is of scant consolation to Sheikh El-Salamouni, but Brian Donegan will be imprisoned indefinitely in a secure hospital after he was declared insane by the court. His punishment and the fact he will spend the rest of life behind bars needs needs to be properly explained to the local community and users of the mosque, some of whom are concerned that the lack of a traditional ‘guilty’ verdict means Mr Donegan has somehow got off lightly. 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 – something I do not envisage happening and something I will do everything in my gift to prevent.
“I have written to Jacqui Smith the present Home Secretary 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.”
It is worth examining the context to the attack on the sheikh.
On 8 August the West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service accused the makers of the Channel 4 documentary “Undercover Mosque” of distorting evidence in order to portray UK mosques as centres of extremism. One of the mosques so portrayed was the London Central Mosque at Regent’s Park.
On 9 August the right-wing press denounced the police and CPS and weighed in behind “Undercover Mosque”. An angry editorial in the Sun declared that the programme was “in tune with authoritative surveys showing how young Muslims are being persuaded by imams and preachers to sympathise with terrorists” and called on the police to “crack down on the fanatics who really are trying to stir up murderous feelings by turning gullible young Muslims into killing machines”.
On 10 August Brian Donegan launched his vicious attack on Sheikh Salamouni.