Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

New Zealand shooting: Security funding for UK mosques and places of worship increased by government

Annual fund doubled to £1.6m for mosques, churches, Sikh and Hindu temples 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 19 March 2019 16:23 GMT
Three men drove past a mosque in London shouting Islamophobic abuse

Funding for security at mosques and other places of worship has been increased by the government in the wake of the New Zealand terror attack.

Following calls for strengthened measures to protect Muslims, the Home Office doubled an annual fund for protective security at religious institutions.

But groups must individually bid for chunks of the £1.6m pot, which is also open to Christian churches, Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and other places of worship.

Security for Jewish communities is separately awarded £13.4m annual government funding via the Community Security Trust, and Muslim groups have called for equivalent support.

The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the funding boost but added: "British Muslim communities may still question why the funding is not proportionate to the risks they face, given the Home Office's own figures last year showing that over half of religious hate crime is targeted at Muslims.

"We hope the consultation with faith representatives will be inclusive of all organisations investing efforts to ensure British Muslims are safe in the UK.”

Muslims were previously targeted in the 2017 Finsbury Park terror attack, when far-right extremist Darren Osborne rammed a van into worshippers leaving Ramadan prayers.

The home secretary hailed the bolstered Places of Worship Protective Security Fund and said another £5m would be used for security training.

Sajid Javid said: “Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us.

“I know many Muslim communities are feeling vulnerable and anxious. But they should seek comfort from knowing we are doing everything to tackle hate and extremism.

“That’s why we are doubling next year’s places of worship fund - providing physical protection as well as peace of mind.”

The fund was established in 2016 as part of a government hate-crime plan, for measures including fencing, lighting and CCTV, and had previously amounted to £2.4m over three years.

So far, more than a third of grants under the scheme have been awarded to mosques.

The government said the bidding process would be simplified “so organisations no longer have to prove they have previously experienced a hate crime incident directly”, after some mosques were reportedly refused funding.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern comforts worshippers at Wellington mosque

The separate £5m fund will be spread over three years to provide protective security training for staff and volunteers at religious institutions.

The government said it was opening a consultation with faith representatives and organisations including the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group on improvements to existing policy to protect faith communities.

It came after the Muslim Council of Britain wrote to the prime minister asking for an increase in funding following the Christchurch attack on Friday, where 50 Muslims were gunned down at two mosques.

The council's secretary general Harun Khan said there was a “palpable sense of fear” over potential copycat attacks.

“Open seven days a week, especially on Fridays, mosques across the UK are places servicing well-attended congregations,” he added.

“This makes the risk of copycat attacks here in the UK a real possibility, especially in a climate where we are now fully appreciating the growth in the far right.”

Following the New Zealand attack, police stepped up patrols at mosques across the UK to reassure communities fearful of similar attacks.

Ben Wallace, the security minister, said an atrocity targeting Muslims “absolutely could happen” in the UK.

Recent days have seen a spate of incidents seeing Muslims targeted, including an alleged hammer attack near a London mosque, abuse of a taxi driver in Rochdale and online threats related to the Christchurch shooting.

Police have not yet made any arrests over the attack by men who made “anti-Muslim comments” to their victim in Whitechapel, before getting out of a car and attacking him. The incident is being treated as a hate-crime.

Counterterror police in Surrey launched an investigation after a teenager was stabbed by a man armed with a baseball bat and knife, who was allegedly shouting far-right slogans.

Official statistics show that 43 per cent of suspected terrorists arrested were white in 2018, compared to 32 per cent who are Asian.

Mr Wallace said the government was investing in both tracking down terrorists and into the Prevent counter-extremism programme, which has seen rocketing referrals over suspected far-right extremism.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in