UK pledges extra cash for Muslims’ security

The new funding will be used to protect mosques, Muslim faith schools and other community centres. Earlier, extra cash was promised to enhance security for Jewish groups

File photo of British Home Secretary James Cleverly at the House of Commons in London, Britain February 29, 2024. UK Parliament/Maria Unger/Handout via REUTERS

Shajil Kumar

The British government on Monday pledged £117 million towards protecting Muslim communities amid a rise in Islamophobia as it promises more action to tackle extremism.

The new funding, announced just over a week after extra cash was promised to enhance security for Jewish groups amid soaring anti-Semitism, will be used to protect mosques, Muslim faith schools and other community centres, the government said.

Tell Mama, a group that monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said last month there had been a 335 per cent increase in cases since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. It had recorded 2,010 hate incidents during the four-month period, up from 600 incidents over the same period in 2022-2023.

They included abusive behaviour, threats, assaults, vandalism, discrimination, hate speech and anti-Muslim literature.

Of the total number, Tell MAMA said 1,109 of the reported incidents occurred online. Women were the target in 65 percent of cases, the group added.

“Anti-Muslim hatred has absolutely no place in our society. We will not let events in the Middle East be used as an excuse to justify abuse against British Muslims,” Home Secretary (interior minister) James Cleverly said.

However, the announcement comes amid repeated accusations of Islamophobia among Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s own governing Conservatives who last month suspended one lawmaker after he said the Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was under the control of Islamists.

While Sunak said the comments were unacceptable, there was criticism that neither he nor other ministers would call them racist or Islamophobic. A survey conducted earlier in February found that 29 per cent of Britons believed the Conservatives had a problem with Islamophobia.

“The prime minister has made clear that we stand with Muslims in the UK,” Cleverly said. “That is exactly why we have committed to this funding.”

Last month, Sunak warned that Britain’s multi-ethnic democracy was being deliberately undermined by Islamist and far-right extremists.

The government is planning to unveil a new official definition of extremism to ensure groups which promote unacceptable views do not receive any state funding or support.

Communities minister Michael Gove, who will set out the new definition, said some recent pro-Palestinian marches in central London had been organised by “extremist organisations”.

“That doesn’t mean that people who have gone on them are extremist, quite the opposite,” Gove told the Sunday Telegraph. “But it means that you can begin to question, do you really want to be lending credence to this organisation?”

However, more than 50 survivors or relatives of victims of Islamist attacks in Britain have signed a letter accusing some politicians of “equating being Muslim with being an extremist” and so playing into the hands of militants.

“It is the height of irresponsibility,” their letter said. (Agencies)