Islamophobia spike, mosque break-ins: London Muslims start Ramadan fearing for their safety

For the Muslim community in London, the holy month of Ramadan has started this year with a sense of trepidation, Anadolu Agency reports.

A spike in Islamophobia spurred by Israel’s war on Gaza and recent break-ins at mosques have heightened fears and sparked calls for increased security measures.

Since mid-February, there have been a series of incidents at mosques around London, including break-ins at three – Palmers Green Mosque, Southgate Mosque and Masjid Ayesha.

This has happened at a time when, according to Tell MAMA, a watchdog focusing on anti-Muslim incidents, Islamophobic incidents in the UK have more than tripled since 7 October, when Israel launched its deadly war on the Gaza Strip.

With more Muslims going to mosques during Ramadan, including for the late night tarawih prayers, there is a great need for the community “to be very careful,” according to Bibi Rabbiyah Khan, President of the London Islamic Cultural Society (LICS).

“Islamophobia is on the rise and people within our community have been subjected to attacks because they’re Muslim, but they don’t necessarily report it,” she told Anadolu.

On the recent incidents at mosques, Khan said it seemed that the perpetrators wanted to damage things like CCTV surveillance systems and take hard drives from computers.

“It doesn’t make sense that people are doing that instead of even trying to get to the money kept at the mosques,” said Khan who is also the chairperson of the North London Council of Mosques, which oversees 13 mosques in Haringey, Enfield and Barnett, including the three mosques that were targeted.

“We anticipate that perhaps during Ramadan that whoever is doing this, they know it takes time to get CCTV back working again, or even to get the hard drives. So probably, is it something that’s going to occur again, when these things are not in place? We don’t know.”

‘We’re worried for our children’

She also mentioned some other recent incidents at Wembley Mosque at the beginning of March and other mosques in Leicester, and stressed the imperative need for strict security measures in Ramadan.

“We are worried about the rise in Islamophobia. We’re worried for our children and our attendees at the mosques. And, during Ramadan, of course, it’s going to be late. We also have a late night tarawih … We have to have the same security,” said Khan.

“We are very, very worried,” she said, adding that there may be more incidents due to the worsening situation in Gaza, where Israel has already killed more than 31,100 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured over 72,700 others.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Palestinian enclave, leaving its population facing famine and starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85 per cent of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to prevent acts of genocide and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

“We don’t know because people are really upset and really worried about what’s going on. There are people who are worried and there are people who are angry, because how can we look and tolerate so many children being killed and not be worried about it?” said Khan.

She said they are coordinating with police to make sure that all mosques have working surveillance systems and proper safety mechanisms are “planned, programmed and then implemented”.

‘Significant increase in hate crime across London’

In response to Anadolu’s question about efforts to address safety concerns during Ramadan, the Metropolitan Police said they have been working closely with representatives from the capital’s Jewish and Muslim communities since 7 October.

Officers have been deployed to provide reassurance and to investigate offenses in the vicinity of faith schools, places of worship and in those communities where we know the levels of concern are highest, a police spokesperson said in a written response.

“Regrettably, despite the increased presence of officers we have seen a significant increase in hate crime across London,” read the statement.

These include abuse directed at individuals or groups in person or online, racially or religiously motivated criminal damage and other offences, it said.

“We continue to encourage anyone who experiences hate crime to report it to the police. It is not acceptable and we will investigate,” it added.

(Source: MEMO)