IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Murdered dad ‘would support Black Lives Matter’

He’d be proud of anti-racism protests, says daughter of man killed by far-right in Finsbury Park van attack

19 June, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Makram with daughter Ruzina Akhtar at her graduation

A FATHER who was killed in a far-right terrorist attack in Finsbury Park would have been “proud” of the Black Lives Matter protests and the “fight against racism”, his daughter has said.

Makram Ali, 51, was murdered three years ago today (Friday) when 48-year-old Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of worshippers outside the Muslim Welfare House after being radicalised online.

Ruzina Akhtar, Mr Ali’s oldest daughter, this week recalled how she watched her father’s killer in court as he was found guilty of murder and how “hurt and shocked” she was to see him show “no remorse” for his actions.

“We were not human to him,” she told the Tribune. “Darren Osborne has daughters, that is something that shocked me. How could you not feel the hurt we felt? How could you not have a heart? How could you sit there and look at us as if you were a spectator in the court?

“That is racism. They said he had watched a BBC documentary on the Rochdale gangs and so he decided all Muslim men were rapists.

“How stupid. My father was a peaceful man, a loving man, gentle and soft.”

Police block the road in Finsbury Park following the attack outside the Muslim Welfare Mosque

Osborne was sentenced to a minimum of 43 years in prison in 2018. The judge in the case said he had been “rapidly radicalised over the internet by those determined to spread hatred of Muslims” and his mind was “poisoned by racists”.

Nine other people were injured in the attack.

Ms Akhtar said: “I think this Black Lives Matter movement is a great thing and I know my father would have been proud of the peaceful protests and the fight against racism.

“It’s not just black people who are protesting, it’s white people, Asian people, Chinese people. If black lives don’t matter, people are not going to care about Asian lives.”

Demonstrations have taken place across the world in response to the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man killed after being knelt on by a US officer during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Police at the scene the morning after the murder

Protesters were in Newington Green on Saturday and there have been shows of solidarity across London.

“My father came here from Bangladesh when he was 10 and I know he would have experienced discrimination as he grew up,” said Ms Akhtar.

Speaking of what it was like on the night of her father’s murder, Ms Akhtar said: “When he got hit I was there within three minutes. Our neighbour had told us he had just fallen. But when we arrived there were people screaming and shouting.

“The police then pushed us back and we waited. We waited for ever. We saw on the TV that there was a blue tent where my father had been but the police would not confirm who had died.

“So we hoped. There was always a little bit of hope, until we identified his body in the morgue the next day.”

Ms Akhtar, a mother-of-two who works in sales, added: “There’s not a day that I don’t remember him when I walk past the spot where he died. It’s still vivid in my memory, it’s something you can’t forget.

Darren Osborne was sentenced to a minimum of 43 years in prison in 2018

“But every day you have to move on and I like to think of the positives. He died during Ramadan which, for us, is the holiest time of the year.”

Mr Ali’s family plan to mark the anniversary of his death by getting together at their Finsbury Park home – following social distancing rules – before travelling up to his grave.

In previous years there has been a celebration of his life in the nearby Muslim Welfare House, but coronavirus restrictions have prevented this from going ahead this year.

“My last great memory of him is at my graduation,” Ms Akhtar said.

“He was very proud. I am his eldest and the only one to graduate from university at the time. He will never be forgotten, he will always stay in our hearts.”

When he died, Mr Ali had six children and two grandchildren –since then a third grandchild has been born.

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