Muslim Census Report Compounds the Need for Effective Mosque Security
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Sunday June 26 2022
In collaboration with MEND, Muslim Census has released a report detailing attacks on mosques and Islamic Institutions in the UK.
Attacks on mosques are common occurrences in the UK and peaked after the Christchurch terror attack in March 2019, which killed 51 people and injured 40. Meanwhile, stones were thrown at the Rabbaniah Islamic Cultural Centre in Cardiff only last week. A man was later arrested for the alleged attack. Concerningly, amidst the pandemic, Islamophobic attacks toward mosques increased by 15%. Among many incidences, the arson against Didsbury Mosque in Manchester and the pelting of worshippers with eggs at the Ilford Islamic Centre were just a few. Recently, over the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a London mosque was attacked by a group armed with bottles and hockey sticks. We can see the importance of mosque security is to local Muslim communities.
Home Office data showed that between March 2020 and March 2021, almost half (45%) of all religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims. This figure has been broadly consistent in recent years and significantly higher than other religious communities. Mosques and Islamic institutions are persistently attacked, raising serious concerns about the safety of Muslim worshippers and their communities. Yet, until this study, there had been no data readily available depicting the quantity and severity of the attacks faced by mosques.
For the first time, we can assess the quantity and severity of the attacks faced by mosques. With the recent announcement of ‘The Places of Worship Protective Security Funding Scheme’ for the financial year 2022/2023, which MEND welcomes in principle, such data on the scale of the problem of mosque security should be utilised to better inform government and policymakers on how to address this.
The Muslim Census and MEND online survey, which received over 100 responses, reveals the nature and frequency of mosque attacks. It was reported that almost half (42%) of Mosques or Islamic institutions surveyed have experienced religiously motivated attacks in the last three years, amongst which 17% of mosques reported to have faced physical abuse directed at staff or worshippers, including the stabbing of a muezzin (one who gives the call to prayer) in 2020.
The most common form of attack experienced by mosques was vandalism, followed by theft. Overall, 35% of mosques experienced a religiously-motivated attack at least once a year. Interestingly, several mosques are dubious of reporting an incident to mitigate any negative impacts, such as fear of attending mosques, reduction in community cohesion, and loss of confidence in police action.
The survey also investigated the police response to such attacks; only 55% of mosques reported being satisfied with police responses, and 38% said no police action was taken. Whilst we do not know the details of these cases any lack of police response is likely to contribute to the level of trust between the police and local mosque community and thereby possibly contribute to the underreporting of offences.
Meanwhile, mosques and Muslim faith schools have been given access to £24.5 million for security measures to protect their premises through CCTV, secure fencing, intruder alarms, and the hiring of security guards. The application requires several hurdles to be overcome before receiving funding. In theory, this appears reasonable; however, Muslim Census has pointed out the many flaws in the previous Places of Worship Protective Funding Scheme. Last year, while the funding amounted to £3.2 million, only a third of mosques that applied received it. Providing evidence of vulnerability to hate crime was the most cited reason, making it difficult to apply, with 50% of mosques citing this reason. Considering the scale of Islamophobic attacks, as evidenced by the Home Office data, the government must ensure that the application process does not hinder mosques from applying for such funding.
Whilst MEND appreciates that funding for public institutions cannot be given indiscriminately, we question whether such a complicated three-stage process is necessary and the degree to which mosques need to demonstrate that they have been victims of or are vulnerable to hate crimes in the future. It does not make sense for a mosque to have to become the victim of an attack to increase its chances of securing funding; the focus should be on preventing such attacks in the first place.
Nevertheless, MEND calls for and encourages mosques to apply for the funding scheme here before the 14th of July 2022. MEND has issued a guide to supplement the application process and warns against any strings or conditions attached to the funding, such as participation in PREVENT or counter-terror programmes. If any mosques or faith community centres are approached on such matters at any point during the process, we encourage them to get in touch with MEND for advice and guidance at [email protected].
Lastly, it must be noted that a Places of Worship Protective Security Funding is not synonymous with rooting out Islamophobia, which has been the driving force behind mosque attacks. Therefore, MEND urges the government to ramp up its efforts to eradicate Islamophobia in its very own structures and institutions.