Study sheds light on Mosque attacks in UK

June 28, 2022 - 18:36

New Research by two British Muslim organizations has revealed almost half of Mosques or Islamic institutions in the United Kingdom have experienced religiously motivated attacks over “the last three years”, in another sign of the rising levels of Islamophobia in the country. 

According to the data collected by Muslim Census and the Muslim Engagement and development group (MEND) the most common form of attack is vandalism with 51 percent of Mosques who experienced attacks reporting that their holy sites had been vandalized. 

Other Mosques reported incidents such as members of the public breaking windows, vandalizing the worshipers’ cars, and spraying racist graffiti on the mosque building itself.

Meanwhile, 34 percent of Mosques that have experienced attacks have been the victims of burglary where the perpetrators in the majority of cases steal money from donation boxes. 

This was followed by 32 percent of Mosques facing online abuse, which includes threats of physical violence on popular social media platforms as well as general abuse.

The survey also reveals what has been described as the most worrying cases of attack with 17 percent of the Mosques surveyed reporting physical assault directed at their staff or worshippers. One mosque reported that a Muslim cleric was stabbed just outside the front door.

Muslim Census and MEND also found that:

Nearly two-thirds of mosques reported that the attacks had a negative impact on the wider community.

Only one-third of mosques that applied for the government Places of Worship scheme received funding. 
(according to the UK government the scheme provides funding for places of worship and associated faith community centers that are vulnerable to hate crime. The scheme is intended to reduce the risk of a hate crime happening at a place of worship and associated faith community center.)

Overall, 35 percent of mosques experienced a religiously-motivated attack at least once a year.

Despite this, several mosques said they were hesitant about reporting a religiously-motivated attack for several reasons including their loss of confidence in any police action or to mitigate any negative impacts (such as the Muslim community becoming afraid of attending mosques) and a decrease in community cohesion.

When it comes to the police response to such attacks, the survey also found that 55 percent of mosques reported not being satisfied with police responses and 38 percent said no police action was taken.

Muslim Census and MEND say the study’s results highlight the need for the further protection of Mosques, their staff, and their worshippers. The “increase in attacks during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic is unsurprising given the Islamophobic nature of some of the social and online discourse that has been reported elsewhere,”

Muslim Census is “an independent organization that gathers data of Muslims living in the UK, to clarify the true sentiments of the Muslim community.”

MEND is “a not-for-profit company that helps to empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities”

The report studied data from more than 100 mosques across the country.

Attacks on Muslim places of worship are disturbingly common occurrences in the UK and peaked after the Christchurch terror attack in March 2019, which saw 51 Muslims shot and killed and 40 others shot at and injured in New Zealand. 

The chair of Finsbury Park Mosque in London, which was also the victim of a terrorist attack in 2017, has said anti-Muslim sentiment now is worse than ever.

"Our community still feels the fear and intimidation, and they expect an attack at any time. What happened was not a one-off, the situation is even worse than it was five years ago. Islamophobia is on the rise, and no one can deny that." Mohammed Kozbar has been reported as saying.

The attacks on Mosques survey comes against the backdrop of another poll earlier this month that found seven in ten British Muslims have experienced some form of Islamophobia at their place of employment. 

The survey, commissioned by Hyphen, "a new online publication focusing on issues important to Muslims across the UK and Europe" conducted by polling company Savanta ComRes showed 69 percent of Muslims currently employed faced some sort of Islamophobic behavior during work-related engagements.

Black British Muslims were found to have experienced higher levels of Islamophobia compared to other British Muslims. While 37 percent of all Muslims said they experienced cases of discrimination during the recruitment stage, the figure sharply rose to 58 percent for Black British Muslims.

Government data for England and Wales show that religiously motivated offenses are at an all-time high. There were a total of 76,884 racially and religiously aggravated offenses recorded in 2021, up 15 percent from 66,742 in 2020.

The Muslim Council of Britain has extensive reports on Islamophobic views in society, Islamophobic hate crimes, Islamophobia in the media, Islamophobia in political parties, and Islamophobia in the workplace as well. 

The British government claims to “take a zero tolerance approach to all forms of hate crime and we are committed to rooting it out wherever it exists.”

Despite claiming to have such an approach, a 44,000-word investigative report on Islamophobia in the ruling Conservative party last year infamously concluded with the warning it would "make for very uncomfortable reading" for the ruling party.

The probe analyzed 1,418 complaints in relation to 727 separate incidents as recorded in the ruling Tory party’s complaints database between 2015 and 2020. It found that two-thirds of all incidents reported to the complaints team at the Tories' headquarters related to incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination.

The findings read: "judging by the extent of complaints and findings of misconduct by the party itself that relate to anti-Muslim words and conduct, anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the party. This is damaging to the party, and alienates a significant section of society."

Anti-Muslim hate among the conservative government ranks is so high that the inquiry was conducted and published about two years after all five candidates in the 2019 party leadership contest to replace ex-PM Theresa May - including eventual winner Boris Johnson, committed to an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the Tory party. 

Campaigners say they have been battling a decade-long fight to get the Conservatives to take anti-Muslim complaints seriously and root out Islamophobia. The British PM has also been criticized for making a number of anti-Muslim statements. 

Critics argue the government cannot tackle the problem or lead by example when it stands accused of promoting and practicing Islamophobia itself. In essence, the government is making matters worse for Muslims who face discrimination in the UK because of their faith. 

This is while far-right white fascist groups have been operating with impunity in the country with footage going viral on social media of extremist English mobs storming mosques, marching like hooligans, or intruding on the private property of Muslims, essentially taking the law into their own hands, with little to zero punitive action from authorities. 

Also the British parliament passed a controversial law that will give police the powers to ban and heavily penalize protests and protesters who are demonstrating. Experts say the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill will infringe on the rights of people to express their views with police enjoying the power to determine which protests are allowed to be staged and which ones will be prohibited.

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