MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development, a non-for-profit organization that empowers and encourage British Muslims to become more actively involved in British media and politics) and Muslim Census (an independent organisation committed to collecting data to highlight issues faced by UK Muslims) released a report in June 2022 titled “Attacks Upon Mosques And Islamic Institutions in the UK”. The survey is the first of its kind1 to analyse security threats, hate crimes since 2019 – present, and what measures have been taken to address them2.
Following the Christchurch shooting of March 2019 in New Zealand, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported across the UK increased by 593% in one week3. Mama (a national project which records and measures anti-hate incidents in the UK) reported that there had been more reported incidents between 15thMarch (the day of the Christchurch attack) and the 21st March, than in the week after the 2017 Manchester terrorist attack and after the 2016 Brexit vote4. Of the 95 incidents that were reported during that week, 85 contained direct references to the New Zealand attack, and most incidents were carried out in person rather than online5. Additionally there was an attack on a mosque in Scotland6 and five in Birmingham7 . At the time, the Muslim Council of Britain called on the UK Government to fund security for mosques8.
Since Christchurch, mosques have continued to be attacked in the UK. During the pandemic Didsbury Mosque was subject to an arson attack in Manchester, and Ilford Islamic Centre was attacked9. On April 19th2022 during Ramadan, worshippers were injured at a London mosque after being attacked with bottles and hockey sticks10. Data from the Home Office also shows that between March 2020 and March 2021, 45% of all religious hate crimes were targeted at Muslims11.
MEND and Muslim Census issued this report to document the scale of the problem in order to better inform government and policy makers12. Their report includes the frequency of violence, impact, police responses, funding security schemes and recommendations.
MEND and Muslim census asked Mosques and/or Islamic institutions in the UK to take part in an online survey from June to September 2021, where 113 out of 1,800 Mosques across the UK responded13. The authors consider 6% of mosques replying a significant sample but do note there are limitations of extrapolating data14. Responses were provided by persons in leadership positions such as Imam’s, CEO’s, trustees, or other committee members.
30% of the responses originated from Greater London, 18% from the North West, 16% from Yorkshire, 12% from Scotland, 8% from the West Midlands, 2% from Wales, 8% from the South East, 1.8% from East Midlands, North West and South West of England15. They survey also provides a breakdown of surveyed mosques capacity16:
|Mosque Capacity (descending order)||Percentage of Mosques in Survey|
Frequency and Impact of Mosque attacks
According to the findings, “almost half 42% of mosques or Islamic institutions we survey have experienced religiously motivated attacks in the last 3 years”17. The most common form of attack – reported by 51% of the mosques– is vandalism18. This includes windows being broken, worshippers’ vehicles being vandalised, racist graffiti being sprayed on mosques. 34% of mosques reported that money was stolen from donations boxes, and a further 32% reported facing online abuse and receiving threats of physical violence19. 17% of Mosques have faced physical abuse directed as staff or worshippers and four mosques have been victim or arson attacks in the last three years20.
According to the survey, mosque attacks are not a one-off experience, with 35% experiencing a religiously motivated attack at least once per year21, and 9% report that their mosque of Islamic centre is the target of attacks “very frequently” (defined as an attack every three months)22. 15% of mosques also saw an increase in attacks during Covid-1923.
64% report the attacks have a negative impact on the wider Muslim community, where worshippers are being discouraged from attending while fear and loss of confidence in police action increases24. The authors also note that some mosques are not reporting incidents to mitigate impacts on the community. Underreporting impacts the ability to assess the scale and magnitude of mosque attacks in the UK25.
85% of the surveyed mosques have reported attacks to the police26. 28% stated the police provided extra surveillance while for 35% no further police action was taken. 15% of mosques, however, did not find it necessary to report attacks to the police, “thinking no outcome would come out of reporting”27. Only 55% of mosques were adequately satisfied with police response28.
Funding and Security Schemes
According to the results of the survey, “just 4% of mosques secured funding from the Places of Worship (POW) scheme”29. The POW provides funding for protective security measures, including CCTV, fencing and intruder alarms to places of worship and community centres vulnerable to hate crime30. In doing so, the scheme intents to reduce the risk and impact of hate crimes. In 2020-2021, £3.2 million was available under POW and includes all faiths, apart from the Jewish community, who receive a separate Government grant administered by the Community Security Trust. The report notes that there are 2,187 Gurdwaras, Mosques and Temples in the UK, with an additional 40,300 churches and associated community centres. With a total of 42,500 places of worship, for a pot of £3.2 million this equates to £75 per place of worship, which the authors note as being a “pitifully small amount”31.
Among the surveyed mosques, only 14% applied to POW in the last 3 years, with only 33% being successful32. One reason for the low applications according to the authors is the need to provide evidence that they are vulnerable to hate crime, with 50% of mosques citing this as the primary reason. A secondary reason is the fact that the place of worship has to cover 20% of the cost of the security equipment33.
Among those that received POW funding, 50% declared they were satisfied with the security equipment. The other 50% did not install security devices due to the cost being too high even with government funding34.
In May 2022 a new POW scheme was announced for the 2022/2023 financial year with a new budget of £24.5 million. Like with the previous scheme, places of worship/community centres have to provide evidence of hate crimes and vulnerability. However, the authors still question the complexity of the three-stage application that deters mosques from applying36.
Recommendations and Conclusions
Despite the increase in funding for the POW scheme, the authors of the survey call upon the Government to:
- Streamline the application process
- Reduce threshold for demonstrating historical attacks to increase success of the bid
- “Prioritise prevention of future attacks by removing the need to demonstrate actual attacks in certain cases”37
They also call upon the mosque community to apply for the scheme, for the police to improve links with local Muslim communities and to implement swift action when attacks occur38.