LONDON: A murderous far-right attack on Muslim worshippers of the kind seen in New Zealand “absolutely could happen here”, Security Minister Ben Wallace has warned.
Wallace said the government is concerned about a “growing” number of people in the UK driven by far-right ideas, and indicated he was ready to consider boosting funds to protect mosques and other Muslim community institutions. His comments came as the Muslim Council of Britain wrote to ask the government for more resources for security measures, of the kind seen at many Jewish synagogues in Britain.
MCB spokesman Miqdaad Versi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a real worry that, given how open mosques are, people are able to enter mosques; the level of security at mosques is basically non-existent because it’s an open place. There is a real concern that things might need to change.”
Versi said the Community Security Trust, which provides protection for Jewish places of worship, could provide a model for mosques. But he said that some Muslim institutions had been turned down for funding for security.
“Unfortunately, until today, the government doesn’t seem to be engaging with many Muslim institutions, including the Muslim Council of Britain,” he said.And he added: “What we need is equivalent support for all different communities whatever their faith background, whatever their positioning. At the moment £14 million goes to the Community Security Trust for Jewish synagogues and schools, and £2.4 million towards all other faiths over the last three years. I think there needs to be some work on that.”
Asked whether more public money might be made available to protect mosques, Wallace told Today: “The funding for protective security tacks with the threat. As the threat changes that funding will change with it.
“In response to increased threat, we will increase and seek to change the funding around that and that is why we do have the Places of Worship Scheme. We will absolutely be looking at seeing whether that needs to be increased over the short and longer term.”
He added: “We will certainly be continuing to work with the mosques, all places of worship from all faiths. In every single constabulary, people from a mosque or another place of worship have at their disposal a counter-terrorism specialist adviser from the police who will come and advise them on how to protect themselves.”
Discussing the kind of attack which killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wallace said: “It absolutely could happen here. That’s why the government has been concerned about the growing group of people crossing into the extremist mindset on the far-right and the neo-Nazis. It is why 18 months ago, we proscribed a neo-Nazi group, National Action.”
Wallace said the government was putting “lots and lots of resource” both into tracking down people involved in far-right activities and into the Prevent programme against radicalisation.
Half of those in the so-called “Channel” part of the Prevent programme, dealing with individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism, were involved with the far-right, he said.
Versi said he was concerned by evidence that increasing numbers of people in the UK were giving credence to theories about Muslims supposedly replacing white populations in the West.
“When 31 per cent of the population believe conspiracy theories about Muslims, when a third of young children think Muslims are taking over England, these ideas of a replacement theory that seem to have driven some of the ideas in Christchurch are very much prevalent in our society here,” he said.