In the days following the murder of a British soldier in London, there has been a huge spike in anti-Muslim incidents, according to an interfaith charity. Faith Matters, an organization that works to reduce extremism, says it has received 162 calls on its helpline since Wednesday’s attack, a sharp increase from the six calls it receives on an average day. The incidents range from name calling and abuse on social media, to the painting of graffiti, attacks against mosques, and pulling off women’s headscarves in the street. The director of the group told the BBC that what is most concerning is “the spread of these incidents” that are “coming in from right across the country.” Some of these attacks “are quite aggressive, very focused, very aggressive attacks,” Fiyaz Mughal said.
Police have arrested several people since Wednesday, including three men who were detained for allegedly making offensive comments on Twitter and two men who will be charged with threatening behavior at a fast food restaurant, details the Guardian.
Meanwhile, British police arrested a man who described himself as a friend of one of the suspects after he gave an interview to the BBC Friday night. Abu Nusaybah told the BBC that one of the two men arrested after the murder Wednesday had been approached by Britain’s domestic intelligence service. According to Nusaybah, Britain’s MI5 approached Michael Adebolajo about six months ago and asked him whether he wanted to work for them. He rejected the offer. The BBC was not able to confirm the offer that allegedly happened after Adebolajo returned from a trip to Kenya. The police entered the BBC offices and waited for the interview to conclude before arresting Nusaybah, a BBC staffer tells CNN. Scotland Yard claims the arrest is not directly related to the Woolwich murder investigation, only noting that the 31-year-old man was wanted on terrorism charges.
Grimsby mosque targeted with petrol bombs
Chairman of Islamic centre says attack was attempted murder, as police step up patrols after social media threats
The number of reported Islamophobic attacks since the Woolwich murder has continued to rise dramatically amid warnings from Muslim community leaders that the backlash which has seen attempted firebombings of mosques is being fuelled by far right groups.
As participants in an English Defence League (EDL) march in Whitehall were recorded giving Nazi-style salutes, Faith Matters, which monitors anti-Muslim hatred, said the number of incidents in the past six days had risen to 193, including ten assaults on mosques. The figure compares to a total of 642 incidents in the previous 12 months – meaning the last week has seen a 15-fold increase on last year’s average of 12 attacks per week.
The spike came as Scotland Yard said it had made a tenth arrest in the investigation into the murder of soldier Lee Rigby on Wednesday. A 50-year-old man was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to murder. Earlier, three men arrested on Saturday were released on police bail.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, who has been targeted by extremists posting his home address on Twitter and inviting others to shoot him, told The Independent: “There is a significant scale of backlash going on and it is extremely important that it be highlighted. We have been told time and again that the EDL and its like are not a significant issue. But what we have seen in recent days is this sharp increase in rhetoric and then attacks. Our data shows that more than one in three of attacks last year were linked to far-right sympathisers.”
The most serious attack yet took place on Sunday night with the attempted firebombing of a Grimsby mosque. Community elders said the incident, during which three petrol bombs were thrown at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre while people were inside, amounted to “attempted murder”. The attack took place despite an increased police presence following an attack four days ago by a group of teenagers. Humberside Police said it had arrested two men and was investigating messages posted on social media which appeared to incite violence at named locations.
Dr Ahmad Sabik, a member of the mosque committee, told Sky News: “I would say I can describe it as an attempt to murder because what we have got was really serious. It was a fire.”
He added that the mosque’s chairman, who went to extinguish the first petrol bomb, had a narrow escape. “The brother who was coming out of the door, it was just a part of seconds but, alhamdulillah, nothing happened and he was not injured.”
The Yard said it was also investigating the daubing of graffiti overnight on Sunday on two London war memorials. The word “Islam” was sprayed in red paint and inscriptions defaced on the monuments to Bomber Command and animals in war but it was not clear if the perpetrators were Islamist extremists or if it was a further attempt to stir up anti-Muslim feeling.
Police mounted a massive operation as up to 1,000 supporters of the English Defence League staged a protest outside Downing Street.
EDL marchers chanting anti-Muslim slogans were confronted by anti-fascist demonstrators and bottles were thrown as lines of police officers separated the two groups. Police, some in riot gear, repeatedly had to intervene to stop the rival groups clashing as the EDL marched from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. EDL leader Tommy Robinson told the demonstration: “They’ve had their Arab Spring. This is time for the English Spring.”
Referring to the row over Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to take a holiday this week in Ibiza, the crowd repeatedly chanted “coward” after Mr Robinson said Mr Cameron had left the country “because he doesn’t care”. Scotland Yard said three arrests had been made.
EDL members congregated after their march. As one youth was taken away by police, the crowd began throwing bottles at them. One officer was hit on the head with a glass bottle and the mob followed the officers, chanting “who is Allah?”.
Faith Matters said most of the incidents reported to its hotline since last Wednesday’s murder consisted of “general abuse” at Muslims on the streets or over the internet. A further 47 consisted of threats of violence with another 35 minor assaults including eggs being thrown. Elsewhere it emerged that an attempt by the EDL to march on a mosque in York on Sunday had been met by a show of solidarity from the local community when 200 people arrived to show their support.
When only about seven EDL members turned up, they were approached by mosque members and four reportedly entered the mosque for tea and biscuits.