Imam of mosque attacked by far-right terrorist says Government ‘in denial’ on Islamophobia
The imam who stopped a right-wing extremist from being beaten up after he drove a van into Muslim worshippers has hit out at the Government’s record on tackling Islamophobia.
Mohammed Mahmoud said his community was yet to see “meaningful engagement” from ministers to clamp down on anti-Muslim hatred, which “no longer simmers under the surface of the fringes of society”.
The Finsbury Park imam was widely praised after he held back an angry crowd laying into Darren Osborne, following the attack near the Muslim Welfare House in which one man died and at least eight were injured.
But in his first major intervention since the incident in June last year, Mr Mahmoud said the Government’s response to rising Islamophobia had been “lacklustre, or worse, in denial”.
“Any community hit by terrorism should see meaningful engagement from the Government. But we’re still waiting for that to happen – which is not lost on a community that still feels vulnerable,” he told the Evening Standard.
“But we’re still waiting for that to happen — which is not lost on a community that still feels vulnerable.
“It is made more urgent as Islamophobia no longer simmers under the surface of the fringes of society.
“My own congregation are increasingly reporting Islamophobic abuse, from having their headscarves removed to facing racist chants.”
Official figures show Islamophobic hate crime in London has steadily risen in recent years.
Mr Mahmoud said the scale of the problem was demonstrated by the distribution of vile letters encouraging people to abuse and attack Muslim members of the public earlier this year, and threats sent to Muslim MPs.
He added: “Recently Muslims around the country received ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters, awarding points for inflicting maximum injury to British Muslims. Nearly all Muslim MPs received suspect packages as part of this campaign.
“Yet, despite the rising scale and severity of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred, the response from the Government has been lacklustre, or worse, in denial.”
A Government spokesperson said of Mr Mahmoud’s comments: “All hate crimes are absolutely unacceptable.
“They have no place in our society and we will do all we can to make sure that the perpetrators feel the full force of the law and victims get all the support they need.
“We’re working closely with the survivors of the Finsbury Park terror attack, including holding meetings last week. A further meeting is planned next month.
“We have taken strong action to stamp out anti-Muslim hatred including funding Tell MAMA to record incidents and support victims, and committing £3.4m to provide protective security funding for places of worship, including mosques.
“Later this year we will publish the refreshed Hate Crime Action Plan, which will set out further ways to tackle these completely intolerable crimes.”
Mr Mahmoud also echoed calls by the Muslim Council of Britain for an independent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia within the Conservative party.
Former chair Baroness Warsi, recently said the problem was “very widespread” and that it was “easily ignored” among the leadership.
She added that there was a “general sense” in the country more widely that “Muslims are fair game”.
A Conservative Party spokesman said in response to Mr Mahmoud: “The party takes all allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and has a clear and fully transparent process to investigate complaints made to it under the party’s code of conduct.
“When cases have been reported centrally the Conservative Party has consistently acted decisively, suspending or expelling those involved and launching an immediate investigation. In addition, the swift action we take on not just anti-Muslim discrimination, but discrimination of any kind is testament to the seriousness with which we take such issues.”