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Four Years On From The Grenfell Tower Fire: How Muslims Responded to the Harrowing Event and How They Feel Now

“The Government promised to remove dangerous cladding by June 2020 – it has completely failed its own target and every day that goes by lives are at risk. Today more people have lost their homes in another terrifying fire. The Government needs to treat this as an emergency and stop stonewalling residents who are raising concerns. No more games, no more excuses.”

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the Grenfell tower fire that killed 72 people, 34 of whom were Muslim. The tragedy highlighted the heroic nature of individual Muslims working together. 

The blaze began at 1am. Muslims living inside Grenfell tower and in the local community were awake at suhr during Ramadan, and urgently ran and knocked on their neighbour’s doors to get them to safety. Audible fire alarms did not go off so their selfless acts saved many lives.

A woman told reporters:

If it wasn’t for all these young Muslim boys around here helping us coming from the mosque, a lot more people would have been dead.”

It is most likely these brave boys had been coming back from Terawih prayers.

Many Islamic cultural centres and mosques including the Al-Manaar Mosque opened their doors to help everyone, regardless of their faith in the aftermath of the fire. The Muslim community quickly organised food and clothing to traumatised survivors when the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council were slow to respond. Islamic organisations offered their funeral services for free. Eternal Gardens cemetery conducted Muslim and non-Muslim burials side by side.

Engineers have recommended to the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government the remaining structure of the Tower should be demolished by May 2022. Survivors say the remains of Grenfell Tower should be turned into a high-rise memorial garden because they consider it a sacred place, with the ashes of their deceased family and friends. Islam does not allow cremations and some Muslim families, in particular, were not able to bury their loved ones.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have spent £406 million on its response to the deadly blaze. £300,000 was saved in a cost-cutting exercise during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower between 2014 and 2016 that led to combustible aluminium panels being substituted for the planned non-combustible zinc on the exterior of the block. In addition Arconic, the company that made the cladding, has spent £30 million on consultants and lawyers responding to the disastrous fire.

Thousands of people in the UK are still living in buildings covered in flammable cladding. On Friday 7th May 2021, more than 42 people needed medical treatment after a fire at a 19-storey block in Tower Hamlets, East London. The building is fitted with combustible cladding. Tower Hamlets has the largest proportion of Muslims in England and residents have been fighting to remove the cladding since 2017. 

In a statement, survivors and bereaved relatives from the Grenfell Tower fire said: “We are horrified by the news of the fire at the New Providence Wharf today. When will the Government take this scandal seriously? Enough is enough.”

The statement continued: 

The Government promised to remove dangerous cladding by June 2020 – it has completely failed its own target and every day that goes by lives are at risk. Today more people have lost their homes in another terrifying fire. The Government needs to treat this as an emergency and stop stonewalling residents who are raising concerns. No more games, no more excuses.”

The Grenfell Tower inquiry is still on-going and no one has been held accountable. Phase 2 hearings will resume tomorrow. It will examine the causes of events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition that allowed the fire to spread.

In a statement, the enquiry panel stated: “We shall continue to put every effort into uncovering the causes of the fire and remain determined to provide the answers which the community seeks.”

For many people that lost their family, friends and homes, the lack of accountability and progress provides little comfort. “I am incredibly angry we’re still in this situation,” said Karim Mussilhy of the families group Grenfell United, who lost his uncle Hesham Rahman in the fire. “The fact we are still having to campaign says it all. We are having to campaign for people to be safe in their homes and for better treatment for social housing tenants. Everything has to be fought for.”

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