In the early hours of Wednesday the 14th of June, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential building in West London. News of the incident quickly spread on social media and mainstream news outlets picked up on the story shortly afterwards. Videos emerged of the whole building appearing to be engulfed in flames.
Stories were shared about people being trapped in the building, some opting to use makeshift ropes and parachutes to try and escape and there were people throwing their children from the tower block in order to save them from the smoke and flames, including a report of a baby being dropped from a window ‘on the ninth or tenth floor’. Witnesses said a man in the crowd ran forward and caught the falling youngster.
The whole community, faith groups, residents and local centres pulled together to assist and Muslims were amongst the first to respond to help those in need. Here are a few examples of how the Muslim community responded:
- Human Aid ( https://www.human-aid.org/ ) were one of the first organisations on the scene. They first arrived around 2 hours after the fire started. Human Aid distributed bottles of water and clothing.
- Islamic Relief ( http://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/ ) donated £10,000 from their ‘Islamic Relief Emergency Fund’ to those affected and also sent 6,000 water bottles. Volunteers were on the ground throughout the day.
- Al Manaar (The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre) in West London, opened their doors to provide temporary shelter and stated “Al-Manaar Mosque and Centre are open for use as a temporary shelter by anyone affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower. Anyone of any faith or no faith is most welcome to walk in to have some rest, sleep, and or have some water and food”.
- Muslim Aid ( https://www.muslimaid.org/ ) had volunteers on the ground directing people to safe areas, comforting those affected and delivered food parcels and blankets.
- MCWC Community Centre in Golborne Road W10, London operated as a collection point for food drink, clothing, blankets and toiletries. An-Noor Cultural Centre in Church Road W3, were also collecting items and opened their doors for people affected by the fire..
Dozens of individuals have also been helping in community centres, mosques and in the streets around the area.
Local residents also spoke to the media about the response of the Muslim community. Ahmed Chellat, who lives in the local area spoke to Sky News and stated that more people would have been killed if Muslims marking the month of Ramadan had not been awake to help rescue tenants. Chellat said: “If it wasn’t for Ramadan, there would have been more casualties. Everyone was awake. That’s why so many lives were saved. If it wasn’t for that, there would have been more casualties”.
One local woman told the Huffington Post: “Thank God for Ramadan”. Another added: “They just pushed past the police and ran to the tower block and started screaming at the people [inside] and trying to help them. They ran into the building.”
One local resident was filmed on camera praising members of the Muslim community in the aftermath of the fire: “If it wasn’t for all these young Muslim boys around here, helping us, coming from Mosque, people would’ve [been] dead, more people would’ve [been] dead. They were the first people with bags of water giving to people, helping people. They were running and telling people”.