A Muslim leader is being hailed for his courage and bravery after he protected the driver who rammed his van into a crowd outside a mosque in north London on Monday.

The driver of a van deliberately targeted worshipers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque, an eyewitnesses said, and the attacker shouted: “I want to kill all Muslims.” The attack left one dead and eight wounded.

Bystanders grabbed the driver and wrestled the 48-year-old man to ground.

But Imam Mohammed Mahmoud of the Muslim Welfare House shielded the man and urged the crowd to remain calm, until the police arrived, preventing them from harming the suspected terrorist.

A man identified only as Mohammed who was holding the suspect down told Britain’s Guardian newspaper, “The imam came from the mosque and he said, ‘Listen we are fasting, this is Ramadan, we are not supposed to do these kinds of things so please step back.’”

“For that reason this guy is still alive today,” Mohammed added. “This is the only reason. If the imam was not there he wouldn’t be there today.”

Another witness, Adil Rana, told the Guardian, “The driver jumped out and then he was pinned down to the floor and people were punching him and beating him, which was reasonable because of what he’s done. And then the imam of the mosque actually came out and said: ‘Don’t hit him, hand him over to the police, pin him down.’”

Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the mosque, praised Mahmoud for his bravery. He told CNN that Mahmoud “went quickly and grabbed the guy because the people there were trying to hit and kick the guy, but he saved him, and kept him safe until the police arrived.”

Mahmoud’s “bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life,” Kacimi told ITV.

Neil Basu, of the police’s counter-terrorism unit, also praised Mahmoud, describing his actions as “commendable.”

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, hailed Mahmoud in a tweet.

“The extraordinary decency and courage of this act has brought me to tears this morning,” she wrote. “I hope this imam gets the recognition he deserves.”