Calls for security funding as worshippers stop man ‘attacking people with a hammer’ at London mosque

A 38-year old man was arrested after police responded at around 4.30am on Monday morning

Southall police have bolstered the force presence in the area. Reuters
Southall police have bolstered the force presence in the area. Reuters

British Muslim groups have renewed calls for extra security after worshippers at a London mosque apprehended a hammer-wielding attacker.

The armed man entered a mosque at 4.30am on Monday as worshippers were attending prayers in the final days of Ramadan.

It comes just a day after two men were arrested after forcing their way into a mosque in Cardiff, Wales.

Now, faith leaders are urgently calling for more funding to ensure mosques receive “effective” protection and say current resources “fall short” of what is needed.

There have been a series of incidents at mosques across the UK during Ramadan.

It follows an increase in incidents internationally after the fatal shooting of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March by a far right extremist who entered the venues firing at innocent victims.

Monitor Tell Mama recorded a 593 per cent rise in reports of Islamophobia in the UK in the week following the terror attack.

Monday’s incident is another example of worshippers having to take security measures into their own hands.

London’s Metropolitan Police responded to a call from worshipers at the Hayes Road mosque in the capital’s western neighbourhood of Southall just after 4.30am. They arrested a 38-year old man on suspicion of attempted grievous bodily harm.

“A 38-year-old man is reported to have attempted to attack people,” the police said. “He was detained by worshippers prior to police arrival.”

On Sunday, two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested in an unconnected incident in south Wales for forcing their way into a Cardiff mosque.

The UK government has pledged to double funding for protection of places of worship this year to £1.6m but groups cannot access it until July.

Director of Tell Mama, Iman Atta said: “We are grateful that the Government has acknowledged that there is a need to protect faith institutions given that work we have done in Tell Mama has demonstrated that there is a risk and why we have also set up services to provide advice and mosque security through awareness and security measures.

“However, expecting 2,000 mosques to access a £5 million pot that is to be shared with churches, gurdwaras, temples and other faith institutions, shows that the resources fall short for various faith communities, including Muslim communities.”

On the back of the attacks on Monday, the Muslim Council of Britain said the scheme needs reviewing.

"The widening of the Government's Places of Worship security funding scheme is a welcome first step to re-assure Muslim and other faith communities,” a spokesperson said.

“However, with the average amount available per institution still extremely low, and the omission from the scheme of faith schools who are also vulnerable to religiously-motivated hate crime, the scheme requires a holistic review if it is to be truly effective."

One of the incidents during Ramadan involved a gunman entering a mosque in London during prayers and firing a weapon outside after he was removed by worshippers.

The armed man, said to have had his face covered, was reported to have entered Seven Kings Mosque in Ilford, east London, before being chased out by worshippers.

Since the government’s protection funding scheme launched in 2016, more than £1.5 million has been awarded to 63 churches, 49 mosques, five Hindu temples and 16 gurdwaras.

In order to qualify for the scheme, places of worship must be evaluated by a Police Counter Terrorism Security Advisor (CTSA) or Police Designing Out Crime Officer, who will then make recommendations on appropriate safety measures.

This year Muslim communities have been taking their own action to counter the increased risk of attack over the holy period.

“The mosques in Ramadan are very busy,” said Shaukat Warraich, CEO of Fatih Associates, at the beginning of Ramadan.

“Mosques are generally open in Ramadan 24 hours a day, which is a high risk situation when the far-right are openly saying ‘we should be targeting mosques’.”

The group has been working closely with the Community Security Trust (CST), an organisation with a focus on the Jewish community, to help formulate security measures and train volunteers.

“CST has assisted other faith communities with advice and support regarding security at their places of worship for many years, based on our long experience protecting the UK Jewish community from antisemitism and terrorism," a spokesperson from CST told The National.

"The demand for this help has increased significantly since the recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and we are working with partners in other faith communities to assist where we can.”

Updated: June 3, 2019 06:55 PM

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