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The year since Finsbury Park attack showed me the common ground between faiths is so vast, says 'hero' imam

The imam who protected the Finsbury Park mosque attacker from harm moments after he drove a van into a group of Muslim worshippers has told ITV News what has happened to him in the year since the terror attack showed him 'the common ground' between Islam and other faiths is 'so vast', urging Britons to find out how 'normal' British Muslims are and discover what they share.

Mohammed Mahmoud protected Darren Osborne after the attack in June 2017, which killed Makram Ali, 51, and injured nine others. In February, Osborne was jailed for life, with a minimum of 43 years, after being convicted of murder and attempted murder. Mohammed received global attention after being hailed a hero for shielding Osborne until police arrived.

Speaking exclusively to Rageh Omaar as part of the ITV News series Young, British and Muslim to coincide with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Mohammed said the 12 months since the attack had been 'quite strange for me' and didn't feel worthy of being called a hero and 'showered with accolades' and awards.

[What I did] was a normal act. Normal for a Muslim and normal for a human being who respects process, who respects law and order.

– Imam Mohammed Mahmoud
Prince Charles talks to Mohammed Mahmoud outside the mosque in the days after the attack Credit: PA

At times, Mohammed said he found the attention he received uncomfortable. "I'm not a person who craves attention...I'm not on social media, I don't have a YouTube account, I don't vlog, I don't blog...so this year has been quite strange for me. I've continued to try and direct the focus and attention to the victims".

But he said that his actions and the recognition he received has helped to break down stereotypes about Muslims.

I think what the British public are still unaware of concerning Muslims is how normal we are, is how our interests are almost identical to everyone else's interests. We don't create a barrier or distinguish ourselves from the 'non-Muslim' counterpart of ours.

We support the same football teams, we hang up the posters of football players, we eat in the same restaurants, we use the same jokes, we use the same references, we watch the same movies, we watch the same TV shows.

– Imam Mohammed Mahmoud

Mohammed said last year's events caused a 'ripple effect', receiving letters of support from around the world, including a letter from a Jew who said that he had never spoken to an imam before. The man praised Mohammed's actions and made a donation to his mosque.

"What it showed was that all humans regardless of their background, regardless of their race and their religion, they all relate to common principles...and that acts of kindness, mercy and compassion are not unique to one group, they are universal", Mohammed said.

"Everyone has within their capacity the ability to love the other, because we relate with one enough on more than just our religion, our ethnic makeup, we relate as human beings above all. And that's what unites us.

When those principles are...given priority, friction is reduced, conflict is reduced, dialogue is increased, understanding is gained between groups and communities, and that's a goal of Islam - not to build barriers but to build bridges, not to cut off and isolate itself from others...the purpose of our diversity is that we get to know one another and to learn about one another.

– Imam Mohammed Mahmoud

Watch the latest episode of Young, British and Muslim here:

Mohammed said he had the opportunity himself to learn about other faiths since the attack.

"I had never sat with a rabbi, prior to last year", he said.

"In doing so, in the last year one learns that there is very little that we disagree with - even religiously, there is very little. The common ground is so vast, that there is so much to work and cooperate on collectively...and very little that we disagree on".

Watch all episodes of Young, British and Muslim here.

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