Shouts, accompanied by frantic footsteps, echoed through an east London subway station Saturday as people fled from a knife-wielding assailant. The suspect, who allegedly injured three and reportedly yelled “This is for Syria,” wore a black balaclava, a gray shirt and khakis. He lunged at police officers who brought him to the ground with a stun gun.

An electric zap filled the air as the man collapsed, his knife sliding from his hand onto the tiled floor. The clamor persisted as some onlookers lingered to watch the arrest unfold. Then, a cry louder than the rest was caught on video.

“You ain’t no Muslim, bruv!” someone said. “You ain’t no Muslim.”

The proclamation has been widely praised as a succinct articulation of what has been repeated for years: jihadists don’t represent Islam. But observers say that the sentiment has never before been expressed in a manner at once so raw and so quintessentially British.

“Bruv” is short for the British slang “bruvva,” akin to the American term “bro.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron praised — and repeated — the remark Monday at a news conference.

Asked about the incident, Cameron described it as “hideous” and paid tribute to the passersby who tried to take on the attacker, as well as the police who finally subdued him.
“Let me also pay credit to the person – you can’t quite see who it is from that film – who made that brilliant statement about, er, ‘you ain’t no Muslim,'” Cameron said.
“Some of us have dedicated speeches and media appearances and soundbites and everything to this subject. But ‘you ain’t no Muslim bruv’ said it all much better than I ever could. Thank you because that will be applauded around the country.”

The attack occurred three days after airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria were approved by the British Parliament. British police, who apprehended the suspect at the scene, are investigating the stabbing as a “terrorist incident.”

In the aftermath, #YouAintNoMuslimBruv began trending on social media, becoming a rallying cry against growing Islamophobia after the Islamic State’s recent attack on Paris and last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

Twitter users held up the saying as a demonstration of British grace.

The phrase also caused Londoners to swell with pride for their city — the same place where Islamist extremists detonated suicide bombs that killed 52 people in 2005. Those attacks, which were the deadliest terrorist incident the United Kingdom had seen in almost two decades, also occurred in London’s subway system, but few pointed out the parallel over the weekend.

The hashtag’s rare critics lamented that #YouAintNoMuslimBruv was receiving more attention than the victims of Saturday’s stabbings, including one who was seriously injured after being stabbed in the throat.

Another Twitter user pointed out that Islam, like other religions, accepts sinners.

“This #YouAintNoMuslimBruv hashtag is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen on social media, propagated by ignorant Muslims,” Ismail Ibrahim wrote. “Participating in western [sic] condemnation culture actually perpetuates the notion that Muslims bear responsibility for these acts,” he also posted on Twitter.

Nonetheless, many Brits and others around the world celebrated the spontaneous utterance as a show of solidarity.

This post has been updated.

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