UK police hike security near mosques fearing reprisals

Police officers in Britain have been mounting additional patrols near mosques and monitoring the Internet fearing a backlash against Muslims.

Updated: May 24, 2013, 22:24 PM IST

London: Police officers in Britain have been mounting additional patrols near mosques and monitoring the Internet fearing a backlash against Muslims from far-right extremists following the terror attack in London.

Controversial far-right group English Defence League (EDL) has declared itself "at war" with Islam following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, 25, by two Islamist extremists on Wednesday.

"What we are seeing is concerted action from individuals across the country. We are really concerned. When you see a wider picture of resentment and retribution, this is telling us its an increasing problem. Something is moving in a very disturbing direction," said Fiyaz Mughal, director of inter-faith charity Faith Matters.

The charity`s Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) helpline, set up to tackle Islamophobia in Britain, logged 38 cases over Wednesday night alone and more have been reported since, including graffiti and vandalism at mosques and a number of Muslims, including children, being abused in the street.

"We can`t allow the voices of the far right to become louder than ours in the coming days. All of the Muslim organisations have come out with the strongest possible terms to say there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever, no justification for anything like this," said Julie Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of Britain.

In response to fears of a prolonged backlash against the Muslim community, the Metropolitan Police put 1,200 more officers on the street yesterday, stepping up patrols at religious sites.

The force has also confirmed that officers are monitoring social media for signs of people trying to exploit the attack to stoke a backlash. Police in Scotland revealed extra security measures being put in place to prevent reprisal attacks as an off-shoot of the EDL, the Scottish Defence League, announced a demonstration in Edinburgh on June 1.

Community leaders have appealed for calm with the Muslim Council of Britain calling for vigilance and solidarity between "all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim" and for police to "calm tensions".

According to The Guardian, a 43-year-old man was being questioned yesterday on suspicion of attempted arson and possession of an offensive weapon at a mosque in Braintree, Essex.

Another man was held on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage after police were called to an incident at a mosque in Gillingham, Kent.

Graffiti attacks were reported on mosques in Bolton, where cars parked outside were also vandalised on Wednesday night, and in Cambridge yesterday.

A number of social networking sites have carried messages calling for Muslim sites to be attacked.

The "True British Patriots" Facebook page carried calls for mosques in Watford in Hertfordshire and Morden, south London, to be burned down.

Meanwhile, two men have been released on bail following their arrest for making alleged offensive comments on Twitter about the murder of the British soldier in London.

A 23-year-old and a 22-year-old, both from Bristol, were held under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred.