Help Protect Your Mosque!
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Thursday June 18 2020
Tomorrow will see three years since the murder of Makram Ali by Darren Osborne in the Finsbury Park terror attack in 2017. Meanwhile, the Home Office’s consultation into protecting places of worship closes next Sunday, 28th June 2020.
MEND strongly urges mosques, individuals, and community stakeholders to submit evidence to the protecting places of worship consultation to assist the Government in adequately addressing mosque security in line with the specific needs of communities.
Submit evidence here.
With 47%of religiously aggravated hate crimes in 2018/19 directed at Muslims and studies demonstrating that Muslims are more likely to be victims of hate crime than other groups, the vulnerability of Muslim communities to abuse cannot be ignored.
The prevalence of hate crime directed at Muslims cannot be disassociated from the widespread use of harmful rhetoric directed at Muslims throughout media and political discourse, and particularly across online and social media platforms. At the same time, Islamophobic conspiracy theories and abuse that have circulated in online spaces during the COVID-19 crisis has led to fears that Muslims and mosques may be susceptible to a wave of Islamophobic attacks as lockdown measures are lifted.
Concerns surrounding the vulnerability of mosques to violent attack, particularly from far-right and neo-Nazi groups, are not without merit. Indeed, as but a handful (and by no means a comprehensive list) of examples of attacks and threats against mosques and Islamic schools in the last five years:
- June 2016-April 2018: David Parnham (who called himself “Muslim Slayer”) sent letters to mosques and politicians across the country, including white supremacist imagery and threats to Muslims, such as “slaughtered very soon” and “P*** filth”, as well as bomb hoaxes and fake anthrax. Letters sent in March 2017 encouraged recipients to attack ethnic minorities and pledged that Parnham would donate £100 to charity for each killing. These letters culminated in the “Punish a Muslim Day letters” offering a scorecard of awards for attacks ranging from pulling off women’s headscarves, to torture, acid attacks, “butchering” Muslims with guns, knives and vehicles and bombing mosques.
- December 2016: Islamophobic graffiti was spray painted on a mosque in Scotland. The words “Saracen go home” and “Deus Vult”, a Latin term meaning “God wills it”. Both are crusader slogans which have become popular with far-right groups in recent years.
- May 2017: the Jamia Qasmiya Zahidia Islamic Centre in Oldham, Greater Manchester, experienced an arson attack hours after the Manchester Arena attack. The door was set alight and badly damaged but fortunately, there were no fatalities.
- June 2017: Andrew Emery was convicted for posting Islamophobic messages on Facebook saying: “It is time we started to fight back. The Government won’t do **** because of the PC brigade. Every time we have a terrorist attack, we should burn a mosque, preferably when it is full.” This was followed by another post three hours later which said, “To all the British murderers and serial killers out there, do us all a favour and concentrate on the Muslim community”, while another post stated “BURN A MOSQUE TODAY AND FEEL BETTER”.
- June 2017: Darren Osborne drove a van into a group of Muslims outside Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park. 51-year-old Makram Ali was killed in the terrorist attack.
- November 2017: A threatening letter containing a loose white powder was delivered to Didsbury Mosque. Children in an Islamic school based in the mosque were placed on lockdown for several hours. Dr. Faizan Awan, a spokesperson for the mosque, noted that the threatening later was the latest in a series of attacks on the mosque. Two weeks prior to this incident, a box containing pork was delivered to the mosque.
- April 2018: Neo-Nazi, Connor Ward, was convicted for planning terror attacks against mosques in Scotland. The police had found a number of weapons at Ward’s house including ball bearings that can be used in pipe bombs; rocket tubes capable of firing projectiles; a stun gun; knuckle dusters; knives; and deactivated bullets. They also found he had downloaded thousands of pieces of far-right propaganda and documents on military strategies and firearms. They also discovered a book Ward had authored entitled ‘Combat 18 British Mosque Address Book’.
- June 2018: The Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara in Leeds suffered arson attacks.
- August 2018: The Masjid Qamarul Islam mosque and the Al-hijrah mosque in Birmingham had their windows smashed by heavy-duty catapult ball-bearings.
- September 2018: Three people drove a car into a group of worshippers outside the Al-Majlis Al-Hussaini Islamic Centre in Cricklewood, North-West London, after making several anti-Islamic remarks, including taunts of “dirty Muslims”.
- January – May 2019: An Islamic school in Newcastle suffered a series of racist “vandalism”. In the first attack in January, swastikas and the words “moslem terorists” [sic] were scrawled on the walls of the school. Then, in March, copies of the Qu’ran were ripped up and windows smashed. In May the school received a number of malicious Islamophobic letters containing images of Jimmy Savile with a caption calling the Prophet Muhammad a “paedo”. These repeated attacks lead to fears of a potential arson attack. As expressed by the school’s principal, Muhammad Abdulmuheet: “Our biggest fear now is someone will burn down the building.”
- April 2019: Stephen Bishop was jailed for plotting to bomb Baitul Futuh Mosque in London, as “revenge” for the Manchester Arena attack.
- January 2020: Islamophobic slogans were spray-painted near North Brixton Islamic Cultural Centre.
- June 2020: Three mosques in Stockton experienced “a spate of racist attacks”, including having the word “KKK” graffitied across the walls.
At the same time, 27 mosques reported an Islamophobic offence between 2017-2020 to MEND’s Islamophobia Response Unit. A sample of these cases include:
- June 2017: Al-Quba mosque in Sherwood have been subjected to several incidents, including one in which pork was smeared on the front door of the mosque.
- July 2017: Darul Ummah Centre received hate mail containing a powder like substance which was later deemed harmless by a special police unit.
- July 2017: A package was delivered to Khizra Masjid containing threats and bacon.
- January 2018: Four members of Generation Identity, an international far-right group that supports identitarianism and the great replacement theory (which asserts that White people are being actively erased by non-White populations), glued an A2 sized poster depicting to Didsbury Mosque, before posting the images on social media. The group has since been banned from platforms such as Facebook.
- May 2018: Colchester masjid received an Islamophobic letter covered in white substance that was later confirmed by police to be harmless.
- October 2018: Masjid Al Towbah received a poster containing Islamophobic slurs, such as “Prophet, paedophile”, and a CD containing indecent images of children. When the police report was made, the officers reported that other masjids in the area had received similar hateful material.
- February 2019: Threatening comments were made over Facebook against a mosque in Lincoln in response to the local Visit My Mosque campaign. Threats included “am coming with C130gunship smash down ok”.
- May 2019: Two men were injured in a hit and run outside of Masjid At-Taqwa in Leicester.
- July 2019: Badges displaying St George’s flag (a famous crusader symbol commonly used by the far-right) were strewn across the car park of Khizra Masjid, seemingly in an attempt to intimidate worshippers.
- March 2020: A man entered Faizan- E-Medina mosque in Derby. The suspect began shouting abuse to the Muslim worshipers, including waving a Bible and arguing that Muslims were insulting Christians. On leaving the mosque, he drove into two cars of worshippers.
- April 2020: The private ambulance owned by Masjid-E-Umer was vandalised with graffiti.
One of the greatest obstacles to protecting mosques and Islamic institutions remains the lack of funding provided to ensure their security. While the Government rightfully provides funds of £14 million per year for synagogues and Jewish schools, there remains no regular funding for mosques, with the last ‘Places of Worship Security Fund’ launched in 2016 provided only £2.4 million to be distributed across mosques, churches, temples, gurdwaras, and other institutions.
The government has recently pledged £1.6million funding to mosques for security, however, this must be accompanied by a comprehensive risk analysis in order to develop effective strategies and devise funding plans that are proportionate to the threats that mosques face.
At present, this funding appears disproportionate to the risk that Muslims face. Indeed, Muslims are subject to 47% of religious hate crimes and Jewish communities are subject to 18%. However, in April 2020, the Prime Minister commendably increased security funding for Jewish institutions in light of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, committing £14million to support the security of over 400 synagogues and 150 Jewish schools (equivalent to almost £25.5k per institution). Meanwhile, the £1.6million pledged to support 1825 mosques amounts to a mere £877 per institution.
As such, the Government must commit to financing mosque security in a manner that is proportional to risk, in line with what is already correctly provided to Jewish religious institutions.
Meanwhile, considering the threats facing Muslim institutions, it is important to examine current policies and procedures intended to protect them. As with the development of any social policy, the first step in addressing a problem is understanding it in terms of scale, origin, and consequences. Accurate data is central to that aim. However, there appears to be a disparity in how hate crimes against religious institutions are recorded between different police constabularies across the country. In response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted by MEND which asked about hate crimes that targeted “mosques” and those that targeted “religious institutions”, a number of police forces responded that they do not record the data in a retrievable format. Other police forces responded that whilst they do record data for attacks targeting “religious institutions” they were unable to provide specific data in terms of breakdown for the particular religious institutions (i.e. mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras).
However, the data that could be retrieved shows that between 2013-2015 there were at least 138 attacks against mosques, and at least 200 reported attacks in 2016-2018. However, considering the disparity in how forces are recording this data, the actual number of attacks targeting mosque is likely to be many times the figures mentioned above.
standardisation of how incidents are being recorded, it is very difficult to
perform an accurate risk analysis that could be used to formulate funding
strategies and protective policies to safeguard Islamic institutions. It is,
therefore, essential that strategies are introduced to promote the accurate and
standardised recording of hate crimes against religious institutions across all
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. QA85/26
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. ID16/05
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. AS41/10
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. YA87/13
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. TM12/18
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. GY62/23
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. AP41/31
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. AM35/02
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. MF99/20
 MEND, Islamophobia Response Unit: Case No. MI16/22