Residents and neighbours have been left with emotional scars after the harrowing events of the Grenfell Tower inferno. Witnesses were helpless and desperately watching their friends and families stuck inside the 24-storey building. This terrifying experience is not a position anyone should have to face. We express our deepest condolences to the victims and to the hundreds who have lost their homes. As to those families that have lost their loved ones, we remind them of the saying of our beloved Prophet ﷺ
“Someone who dies by fire is a martyr, someone who dies under a falling building is a martyr” Al-Muwatta
Our hearts are warmed by the amazing community response. The community including Mosques opened their doors to those that needed shelter and comfort. There has also been a number of fundraising iniatives to provide financial support to those affected and we encourage everyone to contribute towards this.
This is a shocking incident and the public have, rightly so, raised questions about the duties of the government in keeping people safe in social housing like Grenfell Towers in disbelief to how such an incident could occur.
Theresa May’s new chief of staff Gavin Barwell was one of a series of Housing Ministers who “sat on” a report warning high-rise blocks like Grenfell Tower were vulnerable to fire for four years.
A former Chief Fire Officer and secretary of a parliamentary group on fire safety revealed successive ministers had damning evidence on their desks since 2013 and nothing had happened.
Gavin Barwell, who was Housing Minister, promised to review part B of the Building Regulations 2010, which relate to fire safety, but the review never materialised.
The Minister warned against enhancing fire safety rules to include sprinklers because it could discourage house building.
A Coroner’s report into a 2009 blaze in London recommended building regulations be updated, and called for developers refurbishing high-rise blocks to be encouraged to install sprinkler systems.
But five years later, former Housing Minister Brandon Lewis told MPs: “We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation.”
He said the Tory government had committed to being the first to reduce regulations nationwide, pledging a one in-two out rule.
He added: “The cost of fitting a fire sprinkler system may affect house building—something we want to encourage—so we must wait to see what impact that regulation has.”
Kensington is a famously prosperous area of London with an extremely high number of properties worth £1m or more, however this did not happen in a block of luxury flats. It happened in a high-rise building on a council estate. Council housing which is in shocking conditions.
Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) is the company which the people who lived at Grenfell Tower had complained about for many years.
The Grenfell Action Group residents’ association had consistently warned about the possibility of such a tragedy citing very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The British Government has consistently voted against tenants’ rights over the last few years, even voting down a bill requiring landlords to make their homes fit for habitation. Also it was the British government that drove the loss of 7,000 firefighters over the last five years.
The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the epitome of Capitalism. The area is characterised by widening inequality with some of the poorest in London, nearly side by side with billionaire homes.
Dent Coad is an architectural historian and writer who has campaigned against gentrification in the area for the last 11 years in the Borough. She said about the boroughs poverty, “You can’t always see it by walking around because the council sanitises it by sweeping the streets, pruning the trees and planting hanging baskets. But we have one estate, Henry Dickens Court, that is poorer than the Gorbals and 58% of children live in poverty.”
She further said: “We have areas of extreme poverty. Golborne ward, with the fabulous Trellick tower and Golborne market and all its trendiness, is the joint poorest ward in London. People are getting poorer, their income is dropping, life expectancy is dropping and their health is getting worse. There is no trickle down in Golborne ward and there is no trickle down anywhere in Kensington”
Investigations and reports will now be conducted however it needs to be explicitly clear – this tragedy is the responsibility of the Government. Under its watch it has rejected safety reports and the concerns of residents living in shabby and dangerous conditions. They did this in favour of property development, building properties with the sole aim of reducing costs and maximising profit.
People and their housing needs are not a priority in a system that would rather provide opportunities for billionaires to build swimming pools, rather than place fire sprinklers in social housing.
Indeed the system in Britain is for the rich elite, not for the common man, woman or child.
Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) said, “If a lost sheep under my care were to die on the banks of the Euphrates, I would expect Allah the Exalted to question me about it on the Day of Resurrection.” [Hilyat al-Awliyāʼ, 137]