Theresa May has promised extra police resources to protect mosques in the run-up to Eid, amid a quick response to the Finsbury Park attack which saw her visit the scene and speak to local people within hours of it taking place.
In contrast to the official reaction to the deadly fire at Grenfell Tower, which was criticised as sluggish, while the prime minister faced fierce criticism not talking directly to those affected on her initial visit, the political pace was notably quicker.
With Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader whose Islington North constituency includes the site of the attack, visiting twice on Monday, May went to the scene after chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee.
May was pictured sitting with community and faith leaders at the Finsbury Park mosque, a few hundred metres from the attack scene, praising afterwards what she called “community coming together, all faiths united in one desire to see extremism and hatred of all sorts driven out of our society”.
The attack was, May said, “an evil borne out of hatred and it has devastated a community”.
She was heckled by one member of the public as she left the area, but avoided the more chaotic scenes witnessed last week after she eventually visited a community centre near Grenfell Tower.
Speaking outside Downing Street immediately after the Cobra meeting, May had promised more security for mosques and other places of worship.
“Extra police resources have already been deployed to reassure communities, and the police will continue to assess the security needs of mosques and provide any additional resources needed,” she said.
Praising London’s multicultural community, May promised that more would be done to crack down on anti-Islam extremism.
The prime minister said the Finsbury Park attack, and those over recent months by jihadist attackers at Westminster and London Bridge, all challenged the UK’s fundamental freedoms in areas such as speech and worship.
“This morning we have seen a sickening attempt to destroy those freedoms, and to break those bonds of citizenship that define our United Kingdom,” she said.
“It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms, and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible.”
She described the incident as “an attack that once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives”, and pledged to tackle hatred against Muslims.
Referring to her response to the London Bridge attack, she said: “As I said here two weeks ago, there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia.
“That is why this government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology – both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to grow.”
She called London “an extraordinary city of extraordinary people”, continuing: “It is home to a multitude of communities that together make London one of the greatest cities on earth. Diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident and determined never to give in to hate.
“These are the values that define this city. These are the values that define this country.”
Corbyn had visited the scene once he was alerted to it by officials, and later returned to meet community leaders.
He said: “This is a very multi-faith community. Christians, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, all live around here. This is a microcosm of a community working together.
“An attack on a mosque, an attack on a synagogue, an attack on a church, is actually an attack on all of us. We have to protect each other’s faith, each other’s way of life. That’s what makes us a strong society and community.”
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called the incident “a truly horrific terrorist attack on our city, deliberately targeting innocent Londoners”.
Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Terrorism is terrorism, whether it’s Islamist-inspired or inspired by others.”
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, called the attack “senseless barbarism”. He said: “My thoughts and prayers are with all involved. Yet again the emergency services are heroes.”
The attack came immediately after the weekend’s Great Get Together, a series of community events around the country to celebrate the life of the Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered last year by a rightwing terrorist.
Her widower, Brendan Cox, said that while some people had been moved to hatred by “bits of the extremist Islamist community”, it was clear other people were drumming up hatred of Muslims.
“I think it’s also something, in the case of Islamophobia, there are extremists again who are driving hatred, who are using language about cleansing Britain of Islam, who are talking about a final solution for Muslims,” he said.