An American Islamic group has been advising British mosques on security measures, including the installation of safe rooms and panic alarms, warning that they are at greater risk than in any other western country. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has discussed its revamped security regulations with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in light of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, in Woolwich, south-east London, which it said had even provoked attacks in the United States.
The security improvements encouraged by CAIR, America’s largest Muslim advocacy group, encourage the building of transparent fences around mosques, wire screens on windows, designated security officials, three-inch-thick doors, panic alarms and safe rooms.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of the conflict resolution charity Faith Matters, said too many mosques remained vulnerable to attack in the aftermath of Woolwich. Mughal said that, of the UK’s 1,500 mosques, 1,300 urgently needed to improve security. He added: “There are a significant number of mosques that don’t have CCTV, that don’t do an audit of their lighting around their building. Many of these mosques you can walk into without anybody asking anything. The vast amount of mosques really needs to reconsider their safety measures. I would classify them as vulnerable, given the changing climate since 7/7. But Woolwich is a huge turning point and if the mosques don’t realise that, they really need to wake up to it.”
Hooper said his group had recently contacted the FBI after a mosque in Georgia was vandalised with apparent reference to the murder of Rigby. The sign for the Islamic Centre of North Fulton was spray-painted with the phrase “London Justice”.
There has been a large increase in anti-Muslim incidents since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, an inter-faith charity has said. Faith Matters, which runs a helpline, said they had received 162 calls since Wednesday’s attack, up from a daily average of six. A number of people have been charged after allegedly offensive comments were made on social media websites. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, said the nature of the incidents ranged from attacks against mosques, graffiti, the pulling off of Muslim women’s headscarves and more general name calling and abuse. He told BBC Radio Five Live: “What’s really concerning is the spread of these incidents. They’re coming in from right across the country. Captain Afzal Amin, a former army officer, warned against associating the actions of the attackers with British Muslims. “Secondly, some of them are quite aggressive very focused, very aggressive attacks. “And thirdly, there also seems to be significant online activity… suggesting co-ordination of incidents and attacks against institutions or places where Muslims congregate.”
22 April 2013
A coalition of a number of religious organizations issued a statement on Monday calling for the reclamation of the patron saint of England and “demanding he becomes a representative of all English peoples.” The statement was signed by, among others, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and the Muslim Council of Britain.
Of particular issue for the coalition is the employment of St George as a rallying symbol for many right wing extremist groups in the U.K. The association of the Cross of St George with the Crusades has, according to the statement, led some to inappropriately use St George to legitimize ethnic and religious discrimination, particularly against the Muslim community. To counter this narrative, the coalition asks that St George be held up as a symbol of inclusivity and endeavors to “promote a new, relaxed and confident, English national identity. A place where a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash, and no-one is attacked for their race, religion (or lack thereof) or any other belief.”
Some, like Fiyaz Mughal, head of Faith Matters, point out the inappropriateness of using St George as a symbol for right wing hatred. Said Mughal, “The Far Right do not realize that St George was part Greek and his mother came from the city of Lydda in Palestine.” Similarly, the statement issued by the multi-faith coalition points out that St George lived before the birth of Islam and therefore should not be employed as a symbol justifying intolerance toward Muslims.
St. George’s Day is celebrated in England on the 23rd of April.
17 April 2013
The Board of Deputies of British Jews is set to open “The Righteous Muslim Exhibition,” recognizing the efforts of Muslims to save Jews from the Holocaust during WWII. Located in Bloomsbury, central London, the exhibition will display 70 photographs of Muslims who helped hide Jews from the Nazis and will chronicle their individual stories. It is hoped that the exhibition will inspire more research into Muslim-Jewish cooperation and educate the young members of both communities.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, applauded the exhibition, suggesting that it would challenge the notion, increasingly held in the Jewish community, that most Muslims supported the Nazi treatment of the Jews. In an interview with the BBC, Rabbi Natan Levy, exhibition coordinator, said, “This program provides a unique bridge between the two communities so that they can celebrate together, remember together, and not be driven further apart.”
The exhibition will be held at the Bloomsbury office of the Board of Deputies of British Jews: 6 Bloomsbury Square, London, Greater London.
The first free helpline for victims of Islamophobic attacks was recently set up in the UK by the non-profit group Faith Matters. The backdrop to the helpline were concerns that such incidents are not properly reported or categorised. The new phone line aims to provide help for the victims of these attacks. Moreover, the director of Faith Matters is also hopeful that the helpline can provide data to prove the extent of Islamophobic crime.
The number of Britons choosing to become Muslims has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to one of the most comprehensive attempts to estimate how many people have embraced Islam. Following the global spread of violent Islamism, British Muslims have faced more scrutiny, criticism and analysis than any other religious community. Yet, despite the often negative portrayal of Islam, thousands of Britons are adopting the religion every year.
Estimating the number of converts living in Britain has always been difficult because census data does not differentiate between whether a religious person has adopted a new faith or was born into it. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000.
But a new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year. Asked why people were converting in such large numbers, Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, replied: “I think there is definitely a relationship between conversions being on the increase and the prominence of Islam in the public domain. People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about and when they do that they go in different directions. Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”
A directory of the 100 most “women-friendly” mosques in England is launched today, claiming to be “the start of the process to broaden and deepen the engagement of Muslim women in British mosques”.
Fifty mosques were found to meet all five of the requirements set out by inter-faith organisation Faith Matters, while a further 50 are listed as meeting four of the criteria, which include providing a separate prayer space for women.
The Developing Diversity directory has not been constructed as a ranking tool, but mosques praised for meeting all of the study’s criteria include the East London mosque, in Tower Hamlets, London, which serves the UK’s largest Muslim community; the Jamiyat Tablighul Islam mosque in Bradford, where a separate prayer room caters for over 800 women; and the Karimia Institute in Nottingham which runs two nurseries for young children alongside an activity club for girls aged 8-15.