August 20, 2017

British Muslims not surprised by neo-Nazi threats

Not alone. Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn shakes hands with a woman as he attends a vigil near to where a van was driven at Muslims in Finsbury Park, last June. (Reuters)

London - British Muslims expressed little surprise following the revelation that police were investigating ap­proximately 40 neo-Nazis for allegedly plotting terrorist at­tacks against Muslims, viewing this as part of a recent rise of anti-Islam­ic sentiment in Britain.
A report in Britain’s Times news­paper, quoting senior police sourc­es, confirmed the threat posed to Muslims by far-right extremists. “The danger far-right extremists pose to national security is no dif­ferent from Islamist terrorists,” an unidentified police source told the newspaper.
“They do their research. They identify vulnerable targets and then they make a move but they are more difficult to track than Islamists be­cause they appear to be much better at operating under the radar. We’re anticipating more problems and at­tacks by neo-Nazis.”
There are several small far-right and neo-Nazi groups in the United Kingdom, including National Ac­tion, which in 2016 was the first far-right group to be proscribed as a ter­rorist one by the government.
HOPE not hate, a British anti-racism campaign, had previously warned of the threat posed by neo- Nazis. Regarding National Action’s prospects for 2017, it said: “HOPE not hate’s concern is that the group, or more likely individuals within it, might take an even more confronta­tional and violent path.”
“Over the past year or so, there have been indications the threat from extreme right-wing [individu­als] could be increasing… UK coun­terterrorism policing is alive to this,” a statement from the North East Counter Terrorism Unit said.
Tell MAMA, a UK group that re­cords anti-Muslim incidents, said reports of anti-Muslim incidents and attacks were on the rise and that the figures mentioned in the Times’ news report were in line with its own findings.
Tell MAMA figures indicate that 167 mosques in the United Kingdom have been targeted in anti-Muslim incidents and attacks from May 2013 through June 2017, an average of ap­proximately one incident per week.
“With terror group [the Islamic State] on the run, Muslims are most vulnerable from far right and neo- Nazi terrorist attacks,” tweeted for­mer secretary-general of the Mus­lim Council of Britain Muhammad Abdul Bari.
The Times’ report came just a few months after a van was deliberately driven into worshippers outside of London’s Finsbury Park mosque, re­sulting in one death.
The attack, which was treated as a terrorist attack by authorities, was allegedly carried out by 47-year-old Darren Osborne from Cardiff. He is not known to have direct ties to far-right or neo-Nazi groups.
Tell MAMA and other Muslim community groups warned against the spike in hate crimes that occurs following Islamist terrorist attacks.
Witnesses said Osborne shouted “This is for London Bridge” dur­ing the Finsbury Park attack, an apparent reference to the Islamist terrorist attack on central London in which eight people died. Figures released by London Mayor Sadiq Khan indicated there was a fivefold increase in Islamophobic attacks following the London Bridge attack and a 40% increase in racist inci­dents.
There was a similar spike in anti-Muslim incidents following the Manchester arena bombing on May 22, in which 23 people were killed. Tell MAMA recorded 141 hate crimes after the Manchester attack, a 500% increase compared with the daily average.
Police recorded 234 hate crimes in 48 hours after the March 22 West­minster attack, 273 reports follow­ing the Manchester arena bombing and 319 reports following the Lon­don Bridge attacks.
Writing in July for the New States­man, Tell MAMA founder Fiyaz Mughal said British Muslims must be proactive in dealing with the threat. “Anti-Muslim hatred is not going to suddenly just go away. It has been a growth industry, fuelled by social media as right-wing activ­ists and some columnists churn out anti-Islam rhetoric on an almost daily basis.”
He called on all British mosques to improve security to deal with the new reality. “Every mosque will have to seriously consider, imple­ment and review safety procedures which include risk management beyond the immediate boundary of the mosque, within the bounds of the mosque, and finally, within the mosque building itself,” he advised.
“In essence, mosques need to think about how they can protect congregants around the bounds of their buildings, and build in meas­ures that can hinder or slow down entry into the mosques by people wanting to harm worshippers.”