There is a growing climate of fear in Britain's mosques. Muslim institutions are being violently attacked with increasing frequency by anti-Muslim terrorists - last week's attempted bombing of Wolverhampton Central Mosque was the fourth such attack in two months. Mosques in Walsall and Tipton were targeted with home-made nail bombs, just weeks after a community centre in Muswell Hill was razed to the ground and the area was marked with EDL graffiti.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Evidence from the hate crime monitoring group, Tell MAMA, a government funded project, shows that ten per cent of reported anti-Muslim abuse is against mosques, while the bulk of the violence, abuse and insults are targeted at individuals. These attacks are fed by an unrelenting stream of Islamophobic rhetoric in the national press and the weakness of our politicians, who have too often resorted to dog-whistling electioneering rather than taking a principled stand in making Islamophobia and acts of terrorism against Muslim places of worship unacceptable. The demonisation of Islam and Muslims by some sections of our media and some politicians has provided fertile ground for a slow-burning anti-Muslim pogrom; the effects of which are now being felt throughout Europe.
While MINAB appreciates the efforts that West Midlands Police and other law enforcement agencies have made in response to some of the attacks, and in recognising the broader terrorist threat that underpins them, we find it deeply worrying that our political leaders are not articulating their revulsion and unacceptability of acts of extremism and terrorism that Muslims are being subjected to. This meekness diminishes our rich tradition of tolerance and respect for diversity, and gives succour to extremists of all stripes who seek to marginalise and terrify Muslims in Britain.
The abhorrent murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was widely described, both in the national press, and by Prime Minister David Cameron as an act of terrorism. But when Mohammed Saleem, an elderly Muslim walking to say his prayers in Birmingham, was set upon and killed in a gruesome and brazen attack, it received scant attention in the national media and was at first described as a hate crime rather than an act of terror.Maulana Sarfraz Madni, the Chair of the MINAB said, “We call upon the government to protect mosques and worshipers without fear of being held to political ransom by extremists. It is hugely tragic that in our own country we are being subjected to acts of terror by a very small minority. We take comfort from the support we have received from leaders of other faith communities and the overwhelming section of the populace and for which we are grateful. We note with deep disappointment that our Prime Minister has not so far condemned the attacks on Mosques whilst the Archbishop of Canterbury has been strong and upfront in his views on the trauma facing Muslims.
In these dark days strong political leadership is required from all mainstream parties to address ways and means of protecting our places of worship. We call upon those in authority to be sensitive and responsible in their engagement with the media and to refrain from making statements that have the potential to stoke hatred against Muslims or fear of Islam. Our members apprehend that the attacks we are seeing will become uglier and more threatening. We urge the Judiciary to hand out exemplary punishments to those who are found guilty of hate crimes and terrorism.
MINAB, its constituents and its members remain committed to work with Ministers and other political parties as well as government departments and the police to address the root causes of this climate of anti-Muslim extremism which appears to be targeting our mosques and institutions. We expect the government to engage in honest and open consultation with all leading and credible Muslim organisations to work out an action plan. Consultation with selected organisations or individuals is counter productive and inspires little confidence.”
Notes to editors:
MINAB is the national body overseeing the voluntary self-regulation scheme of over 600 mosques and Islamic training institutions in the United Kingdom. It is a cross-sect coalition that includes Sunni, Shi’a, Sufi and other mosques and has consistently spoken out against extremism in Britain.
For more information on MINAB, visit www.minab.org.uk