Elham Asaad Buaras
Muslim leaders have called for greater protection of places of worship following the latest in a series of mosque “invasions” in England and Scotland by an anti-Muslim group earlier this month.
The “invasion” of East London Mosque on May 19 – which is how Britain First (BF), described the incident on their Facebook page – ended after a local Community Support Officer had noticed three middle aged men and woman had parked illegally outside the mosque in Whitechapel Road, the four had run a red light as they fled.
Metropolitan Police said no arrests have been made in the latest incident.
Led by Paul Golding, former BNP Councillor BF staged similar “invasions” at mosques in Bradford and Scotland.
In Bradford, the groups staged the protests outside 10 mosques, handing out bibles and urging worshippers to renounce Islam, as well as visiting the Keighley home of the Mayor Khadim Hussain.
In a statement on their facebook page the group vowed the incident will be “the first of many”.
“The Yorkshire brigade is finally here and has ‘blooded’ itself in the most heavily Muslim town in Yorkshire,” said the group in their facebook page.
True to their word they deployed identical tactics in Scotland when on May 11 they “invaded” Glasgow Central Mosque and a mosque in Cumbernauld, Lanarkshire, wearing matching flat caps and green jackets embossed with the party logo, which features a crown.
“The initial approach of the group felt very intimidating, hostile and threatening, and they asked to speak to the imam in a raised voice,” said Cumbernauld mosque trustee, Azhar Dim.
“The event occurred out of the blue and shocked some of the worshippers present. However, when the imam appeared they spoke calmly, and the situation became calmer.
“The leader presented the imam with some leaflets on ‘grooming’ and a bible and spoke very calmly, before leaving shortly after,” Dim added.
In the most recent incident BF members entered East London Mosque, wearing their shoes and trampling on prayer surfaces.
An eyewitness said: “They walked across the lobby where people pray, ignored a sign requesting people to take off their shoes, but didn’t walk into the prayer room. They went to the mosque reception and asked to speak to the Imam, who wasn’t there.”
On January 31 the group attempted to stage an impromptu protest outside the East London Mosque by unfolding a banner and taking pictures.
In a statement to The Muslim News East London Mosque said, “Members of the public are welcome to attend the mosque and, with a booking, take a tour of the facilities .”
East London Mosque spokesman, Salman Farsi, insisted the group is using the grooming issue as a guise to attack the Muslims. “If they were so concerned about grooming, we saw the sentencing of ten people in October for grooming. They weren’t of the Muslim community. I would question their intentions.”
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said BF had “violated a place of worship” and had “left many members of the community angered and disappointed with the inability of the Government and the authorities to curtail this type of thuggish behaviour.”
In a statement to The Muslim News MCB urged “the authorities and the Government to urgently reassure our communities that action will be taken to safeguard our places of worship as, up until this time, there has not been any form of public condemnation of this extreme behaviour which threatens the peace in our communities.”
Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, condemned “the fear and intimidation” caused by “the deliberate and provocative actions of thugs”.
He said, “Everyone has the right to feel safe in the place where they worship, free from discrimination and prejudice.”
Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway who instigated a meeting between Pickles and Bradford MPs urged anyone who saw the group in action to call the police.
He said in a statement: “This is crucial because these idiots are promising to return to cause more trouble.”
In a statement to The Muslim News a spokesman for Bradford Council of Mosques said the council had met with key representatives at all the affected mosques.
“We have also highlighted the community’s feelings to all the relevant agencies locally and have been liaising with the press and media who have been reporting the incident.”
They also urged for the law to be changed “if current legislation does not allow for the defence of places of worship.”