As a Muslim restaurant owner in Borough Market, this attack sickens me

Borough Market has been trading for a thousand years - this won't divide us.

Armed officers are seen on the street outside Borough Market on June 04, 2017CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images

We all know of the potential of terrorist attacks in the UK, but we never imagine they will take place on your doorstep. Thankfully, while Roast is a centrepiece attraction of Borough Market, being on the first floor during the London Bridge terror attacks kept our employees and customers safe. Sadly those in our neighbours' restaurants and bars weren't so lucky. Our hearts are with the families and friends of those who were killed and injured.

Borough Market has been trading food and drink for over 1,000 years, the last 11 of which I have been based there for. It's a tightly knit community with all the friendly rivalry and banter markets tend to create. Over the coming days we will come together to share our feelings of horror at what happened and come out of this stronger and more determined than ever to be celebrated for being part of Britain's greatest food market. Like with the people of Manchester, we will become more resolute.

It's hard to describe how it feels to hear that the outrage was done in the name of the religion to which I was born. There's not many Muslims working in the market other from those working for us and I wonder, however closely knit we all are, if this might create a rift of sorts. Certainly we will be witnessing further afield a spate of Islamophobic attacks – that's for sure.

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Writing this article is taking longer than usual. Not because I don't know what to say, but because of all the calls and texts and messages I have been receiving since last night and checking what measures we need to place in while the area is sealed off. Luckily we have a great team of managers who have been working through the night and all day today.

Time and again when these atrocities occur, I feel compelled to write articles saying that those perpetrators of these barbaric acts claim they are acting in the name of my religion are dangerously deluded, that Muslim communities need to be more vigilant about suspicious behaviour in their midst and be more forthcoming in reporting it. And that remains the case – condemnation by religious leaders is to be expected, but what are the rest of us doing? After the Westminster atrocity I called for people who happen to be Muslim and who have gathered success and happiness living and working in Britain to go out into schools, colleges, even prisons, and show the world isn't anti-Islamic, that you can be Muslim and succeed.

And yes, whether you're Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn you can see there is a case to be made that our and American governments successive bombings of Muslim countries in turn helps make the case for the radicalisers. There's a strong narrative to help convince young, alienated, angry men that there is a world out to get them.

The counter-narrative is a much harder sell. But that must be the focus now – the moderate Muslims who think people like me are only serving to point a light on things they'd rather not discuss because this community suffers so many social and economic hardships already must come off the fence. It's not a posture we can afford any more. We may not have created this problem but we have to find a role in helping to fix it.


Iqbal Wahhab OBE is the founder of London restaurants The Cinnamon Club and Roast. He also chairs two social enterprises Bounce Back and Mums The Chef


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