London

Rise in anti-Muslim attacks after Woolwich soldier killing

Men wearing balaclavas gather in Woolwich
Image caption A small group of English Defence league supporters gathered in Woolwich on Wednesday night

As a small group of supporters of the English Defence League gathered at the scene of the brutal killing of a soldier in Woolwich, they marked a wider pattern of anti-Muslim feeling across the UK, according to monitoring groups.

The EDL grouped at Woolwich Arsenal station near the scene of the murder on Wednesday and pelted police with bottles.

Their leader, Tommy Robinson, stated: "They're chopping our soldiers' heads off. This is Islam. That's what we've seen today.

"They've cut off one of our Army's heads off on the streets of London."

Two mosques were attacked in the aftermath of the killing, one in Essex, the other in Gillingham in Kent with events there unfolding live on Twitter.

'Smashing things'

Police were at the mosque just after 21:00 BST on Wednesday and a local Muslim shop owner tweeted: "They broke the book case and some other windows.

"Guy ran in and started smashing things."

He added: "However bad the backlash is, it's nothing compared to what the prophets went through. Stand firm and patient - Allah is with us."

A spokesman for Kent police said a man was in custody on suspicion of racially-aggravated criminal damage.

Essex Police are questioning a 43-year-old man arrested outside the Islamic Centre in Braintree on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon and attempted arson.

He was detained after officers were called to reports of a man, armed with a knife, in Silks Way.

No-one was injured but Essex Police have increased patrols as a result.

Conservative MP for Braintree, Brooks Newmark, has met leaders at the mosque and said he was stunned by developments.

'Anti-Muslim hatred'

He said: "I was shocked to see that in Braintree, a relatively small market town, with a very small Muslim community who are fairly well integrated into our community, that this would happen.

"The mosque is in a converted house and doesn't even look like a traditional mosque."

Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), a London based group that monitors anti-Muslim hatred, spent the evening logging any incidents of Islamaphobia that occurred in reaction to events in Woolwich.

It documented 38 reports of anti-Muslim incidents - most of them online and eight at a street level.

By comparison, in its first year of operation (to March 2013) Tell Mama recorded 632 incidents in total, averaging at about 12 a week.

Image caption Fiyaz Mughal of Faith Matters says he has had direct threats

Tell Mama said the latest incidents involved, at their worst, threats to kill but largely low-level abuse - spitting, negative comments about Muslims and one incident in which a woman was threatened with violence.

It also said on top of the recorded attacks on mosques there were five further threats to attack religious buildings.

Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, which runs Tell-Mama, told BBC Asian Network that his address had been posted directly to Twitter and users had been invited to shoot him.

He said the organisation expected to be dealing with more hatred over the coming days.

He said: "I think we are going to see a growth of activity over the next few days, we are already seeing activity online from people who we thought were no longer a problem.

"It seems that groups like the EDL have capitalised on this incident quite well, both at a street level on with online support."

'Just delusional'

He added that his organisation was contacting police and mosques ahead of Friday prayers.

He added: "We are concerned with Friday coming up because of the sheer numbers who will be going to the mosque - we are asking police to monitor prayers to make sure everything can pass smoothly and we are just hoping for no more flash demos."

In Woolwich local British Muslim Murad Rasul, 30, told BBC Asian Network he was concerned about any backlash because relations had always been good in the area.

He said: "I've been born and raised in this area of Woolwich and the Army barracks have been a part of the Greenwich borough forever.

"There has never been any animosity between any members of the Muslim community and the Army."

Mr Rasul said, for him, the men who carried out the attack were not representing Islam or Muslims.

"Anybody could carry out this act and shout 'Allahu Akbar' - they're just words.

"You can't kill an innocent person and try and justify it with religion - they're just delusional."

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