New Age Islam
Sat Jan 16 2021, 10:25 AM


Islam and the West ( 27 March 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

After New Zealand Massacre and String of Birmingham Mosque Attacks, UK Muslims Concerned Over Community's Safety

By Arwa Ibrahim

23 Mar 2019

In the early hours of Thursday, five mosques in the English city of Birmingham were damaged - the latest in a string of Islamophobic attacks in the UK.

The spate of vandalism came just days after a gunman killed 50 worshippers during Friday prayers at two mosques in New Zealand, placing Muslim communities in the UK and around the world on heightened alert amid concerns over the safety of their communities.

While security has been stepped up at mosques across Britain amid a police investigation into the incidents in Birmingham, Muslims in the UK say more needs to be done to prevent such attacks from happening.

Al Jazeera spoke to members of Britain's Muslim community on Friday to get their views.

Abdullah Saif, 33, Birmingham resident

As bad as the Birmingham attacks were, they are a continuation of previous incidents, many of which were much worse. With the incidents being on the back of the New Zealand attacks, people's fears are more heightened.

Every single one of us who goes to the mosque could picture themselves in that mosque in New Zealand, living those exact moments. With guys going around Birmingham smashing up mosques, it brings it a bit [closer to] home.

People will continue to join congregational prayers at their local mosques, but conversations about increasing security have become more urgent. Since these incidents, several Birmingham mosques have beefed up their security and are holding conversations about what more needs to be done.

Nasar Mahmood, 68, trustee at Manchester Islamic Education Trust

There is a big concern among parents with regards to the security of their children at schools. They want to make sure we have measures in place to avoid what happened in New Zealand repeating itself here.

We have since increased security and CCTV on our premises and are looking with the police at other protective measures we can take ensure everyone's safety and security.

As a woman who is visibly Muslim, I've felt somewhat apprehensive and vulnerable over the past week. People need to understand that what they say has an impact on what happens on the streets - and the media has a huge responsibility to play in that regard.

Also, while the response in New Zealand has been overwhelming support for the Muslim community, the response in the UK seems to be more clinical, and there are always explanations to justify what happened.

Following the [2017] attack at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London for example, we did get support but there wasn't an outpour of sympathy and an understanding for what we were experiencing as a community.

One of the things that people are waking up to [since the incidents] is that Islamophobia exists and is growing. People are starting to ask where is it [Islamophobia] coming from and what is going to be done about the anti-Muslim narrative in the media and rhetoric among politicians.

Such incidents are not going to go away until these issues are addressed.

Samayya Afzal, 27 community engagement manager at Muslim Council of Britain

Muslim communities around the UK have long been complaining about the rise of Islamophobia and fears of attacks like this.

This fear isn't just restricted to the rise of the far right; it's also about mainstream media outlets reporting inaccurately and unfairly about Muslims; it's about 31 percent of schoolchildren thinking Muslims are taking over the UK; it's about the fact that over 50 percent of hate crimes in the UK are directed towards Muslims.

Wider societal Islamophobia dehumanises and readies Muslim communities as targets for hate.

The government has made some commitments to increase funding, but this is not proportional to the risk that Muslims are feeling.

As Ramadan approaches, Muslims will be hyper-visible and will visit mosques in more numbers and more frequently. The funding needs to be increased, it needs to be immediately available and more easily accessible for mosques and other Islamic community centres to apply for.

Arwa is a journalist specialising in the Middle East and North Africa.