Australia pledges $39m to improve security at religious sites

PM Scott Morrison says money will be spent on security cameras, lighting, barriers and public address systems

epa07440470 New York City police officers, including officers from the department's Counterterrorism Unit, provide security at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York as people arrive for Friday prayers in New York, New York, USA, 15 March 2019. Security in New York, and at sites around the world, was heightened following what was described as terrorist attacks at two mosques in New Zealand where 49 people were killed by a gunman and 20 more injured and in critical conditions.  EPA/JUSTIN LANE
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Australia will spend millions of dollars on improving security at places of worship after the mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand last week.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $39 million (Dh143m) fund would go towards providing places of worship with "CCTV cameras, lighting, fencing, bollards, alarms, security systems and public address systems".

The suspect accused of killing 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch was from Australia.

Mr Morrison said the "community safety grants" will go to "religious schools, places of religious worship and religious assembly".

"I so wish we didn't need this on places of worship in Australia, whether they be at temples or schools or mosques or churches," said Mr Morrison. "It grieves me that this is necessary. But, sadly, it is."

Australia joins a number of non-Islamic countries that have ramped up or pledged to improve security at places of worship.

New York police increased security at mosques after the attack on Friday. This came as the UN Security Council, which is headquartered in the city, adopted a statement condemning the New Zealand attack that was proposed by the two Muslim council, Kuwait and Indonesia.

The statement called the attacks "heinous and cowardly" and said terrorism "constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security".

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered police to step up security in the city’s mosques saying it was their job to “ensure that this community [Muslims] is respected, embraced and protected”.

Heavily armed guards were seen in mosques within metropolitan New York, accompanied by members of a special self-funded neighbourhood watch group, the Muslim Community Patrol.

Although the UK also heightened security measures after the Christchurch shootings, two men in their twenties were seen brandishing a hammer before attacking a man near a mosque in East London just hours after the attacks in Christchurch.

British Muslims called for more police protection at mosques after the incident, saying they feared more such attacks in the UK.

In France, the Ministry of Interior said it would be stepping up security patrol at places of worship.

However, other than in Australia, it is unclear how long the increased security measures will continue. Muslim communities around the world are asking for more to be done to ensure that places of worship, that once offered sanctuary, do not turn into the scene of another heinous crime.