Mosques could be given Scottish government cash to improve security

By David Cowan
BBC Scotland

Published
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image captionPlaces of worship like Glasgow's Central Mosque could get help to improve security measures

Public money provided by the Scottish government could be used to improve security at places of worship, following the terrorist attacks in New Zealand.

The twin mosque attacks on Friday left 50 people dead and another 50 injured.

Under a scheme in England and Wales, mosques, churches and temples can apply for tens of thousands of pounds to protect themselves from hate crime.

Ministers are now considering similar funding in Scotland.

Omar Afzal from the Muslim Council of Scotland told BBC News: "The attack in New Zealand has amplified people's concerns and the feeling of unease that the Muslim community has had for a long time, around the rise in Islamophobia and the portrayal of Muslims in the media.

"People were absolutely horrified at the scale and brutality of the attack. It happened at such a vulnerable time for the community, at Friday prayers, when the mosques are at their busiest. It's brought home a real sense of urgency on how we improve mosque security and protect our congregations."

'Open minded'

Introduced in England and Wales in 2016, the Places of Worship Security Funding scheme is worth £2.4m in total. The Home Office says it has helped dozens of churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras to install protective alarms, security lighting and CCTV cameras.

Funding of up to £56,000 is awarded when places of worship have fallen victim to or are at risk of a hate attack. Synagogues are covered under a separate scheme.

image captionNicola Sturgeon met members of the Muslim community at a Glasgow mosque after the New Zealand attacks

On Friday, the Muslim Council of Scotland asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to introduce a similar scheme north of the border.

The politicians were visiting Glasgow Central Mosque in the wake of the massacres in Christchurch.

image captionMr Yousaf believes if such an atrocity can happen in New Zealand, it could happen anywhere else

"The first minister and I were both absolutely open minded to that," said Mr Yousaf. "I will take that on personally. We will do everything we can.

"If it can happen in a place like New Zealand, a country that most people view as open, inclusive and tolerant, then why could it not happen anywhere else?"

"Security at places at worship is an important issue. I'll see what the government can do to reassure worshippers, regardless of what institution they go to."

The Muslim Council of Scotland says there are between 80 and 90 Muslim places of worship north of the border, ranging from small converted flats to huge purpose-built mosques.

The council is urging all of them to review their security.

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