Attacks on Islamic institutions increase

As part of ongoing research on racial violence in the UK, the IRR has documented 21 attacks on Islamic institutions reported by the media in 2011: at least one incident, on average, every ten days.

These attacks exclude confrontations where people have been physically assaulted, except where they took place alongside acts of vandalism. Incidents such as members of the EDL setting upon two Muslim brothers near an Islamic centre in Dagenham last month, or an attack on a 71-year-old Asian man outside a mosque in Kilmarnock few weeks ago which left him with serious facial injuries, have been recorded separately. Moreover, given that the vast majority of attacks are not covered by the media, those recorded here are likely to show only a tiny snapshot of the actual number of incidents. But even then, there is evidence of a routine pattern of vandalism, intimidation and criminal damage.

Some of these incidents could have been deadly. An Imam in Accrington, for example, was lucky to escape unharmed earlier this month when the mosque he was sleeping in began to burn. In a suspected arson attack, flames had spread from a nearby building containing gas cylinders and according to a fire safety officer, had they penetrated the kitchen of the mosque ‘we could have been looking at a fire fatality’.

Several attacks appear to have been carried out by members of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) or people claiming affiliation with the organisation. EDL graffiti have been found on numerous occasions and, in other incidents, people taking part in the organisation’s demonstrations attempted to vandalise mosques.

The most serious incidents that have taken place this year have been arson attacks. Two buildings earmarked to be converted into a mosque and a Muslim-run community centre were completely destroyed after being set on fire; and another mosque in Sussex only escaped serious damage because firefighters promptly arrived at the scene. In May the EDL posted a link to a list of mosques in the UK on its Facebook page. A number of members subsequently wrote messages expressing a wish to destroy them, including ‘burn them all’ and ‘burn them all down’. However, none of the arson attacks that have taken place have been attributed by the police conclusively to any particular organisation.

Other attacks which have taken place include sending suspicious packages initially thought to be anthrax, throwing pig’s heads at mosques and firebomb threats.