Muslim leaders have accused far-right extremists of trying to capitalise on the “sick and barbaric” murder of Lee Rigby to fuel racial hatred. A group of supporters of the English Defence League gathered at the scene of the brutal killing of a soldier in Woolwich, they marked a wider pattern of anti-Muslim feeling across the UK, according to monitoring groups. The EDL grouped at Woolwich Arsenal station near the scene of the murder on Wednesday and pelted police with bottles. Their leader, Tommy Robinson, stated: “They’re chopping our soldiers’ heads off. This is Islam. That’s what we’ve seen today.
Islamophobic hate crimes are running at more than 10 times their usual rate, with more than 140 reported to a government-backed hotline in the 48 hours since the Woolwich killing. Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), a London based group that monitors anti-Muslim hatred, spent the evening logging any incidents of Islamaphobia that occurred in reaction to events in Woolwich. It documented 38 reports of anti-Muslim incidents – most of them online and eight at a street level. In its first year of operation (to March 2013) Tell Mama recorded 632 incidents in total, averaging at about 12 a week. Tell Mama said the latest incidents involved, at their worst, threats to kill but largely low-level abuse – spitting, negative comments about Muslims and one incident in which a woman was threatened with violence. However some report attacks on mosques, assaults, racial abuse and anti-Muslim graffiti. An improvised petrol bomb was thrown at a mosque in Milton Keynes during Friday prayers, while attacks have also been reported in Gillingham, Braintree, Bolton and Cambridge.
The British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, who visited Woolwich yesterday, provoked widespread disgust for tweeting that the alleged killers should be wrapped in “pig skin” and shot again. The English Defence League, which has said the killing shows Britain is “at war” with Islamic extremism, will stage a march today in Newcastle, where it will protest over plans to open an Islamic school. It is also planning a demonstration in central London on Monday. Amid heavy security, Mr Griffin visited the site of the killing following a series of provocative tweets in which he claimed the attack was the result of “mass immigration”.
Far-right websites are linking the murder to population growth among ethnic minorities, while a number of social networking sites also carried messages calling for Muslim sites to be attacked. The “True British Patriots” Facebook page carried calls for mosques to be burned down. The official website of the National Front party berates “Muslim scum”.