The Government has been accused of double standards in the way it responded to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby compared to the killing of an 82-year-old Muslim and explosions at three mosques in the West Midlands.
Although the stabbing of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham in April is regarded by police as a terrorist incident, Labour is concerned that it has not been discussed by the task force on extremism set up by David Cameron after the Woolwich killing in May. That was followed by explosions at mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton.
Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, from the Ukraine, has been charged with one count of murder and two counts under the Explosive Substances Act. The Muslim Council of Britain said the bombing of the mosques marked “the crossing of a red line.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, has written to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, recalling that Mr Cameron said the task force would look at new ways to support local communities and take a united stand against all forms of extremism.
Ms Cooper told The Independent: “These terrorist attacks, including the murder of Mr Saleem, are vile, appalling attempts to divide our communities. It is essential that there is serious engagement by government with the communities who have faced these threats.”
She added: “Like others, I had assumed the Prime Minister’s task force for tackling extremism would engage seriously with the West Midlands communities concerned. Its purpose was to ask questions about attacks, what more we can do to prevent extremism and to protect our communities. Clearly it needs to cover terror attacks on Muslim communities as well as Islamist extremism. So I think it’s really important the Taskforce considers these attacks and engages with the community now.”
The Home Office insists the Government is taking the West Midlands attacks seriously. James Brokenshire, the Security Minister, visited the mosque in Tipton last week and met Mr Saleem’s family in Birmingham. Mrs May has spoken to Marcus Beale, the Assistant Chief Constable, and is being briefed regularly on developments. She will visit Tipton shortly to show her support for those affected and emphasise a united front against extremism in whatever form it takes.
Replying to Ms Cooper, the Home Secretary said: “These are of course terrible crimes which have the potential to cause fear and resentment across communities and we must continue to make clear that we will not tolerate extremism which attempts to divide us.”
But Mrs May told her Labour shadow she had misunderstood the task force’s role, adding that it is about policy rather than the operational response to an incident or investigation. “We have already made clear that it should address all forms of extremism,” she said. Mrs May acknowledged the tireless work of police and community leaders to counter the awful impacts of such attacks.
Mr Brokenshire praised the bravery of Muslims in the West Midlands and said Mr Saleem’s family and representatives of the mosques “have been an example to us all through their resilience and with their calls for unity.”
The Security Minister acknowledged that there was “some fear and concern” in the community. He said: “Specialist advisers have been giving security advice to mosques, Islamic schools and community centres and there have been increased police patrols and community engagement plans.”