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British soldier death sparks anti-Muslim ‘crusade’

Hate crimes against Muslims and support for ultra-nationalist groups have risen dramatically following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby on May 22.

People look at flowers and flags left in memory of British soldier Lee Rigby at the scene of his murder in Woolwich, southeast London May 27, 2013. Credit: Reuters People look at flowers and flags left in memory of British soldier Lee Rigby at the scene of his murder in Woolwich, southeast London May 27, 2013.
Credit: Reuters

Hate crimes against Muslims and support for ultra-nationalist groups have risen dramatically following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby on May 22.

Reports of Islamophobic crimes are ten times higher than normal, according to the Measuring anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) helpline. Ten mosques have reported attacks including arson attacks, and many businesses have been vandalized.

“This is the highest peak of Islamophobia”, said MAMA spokesman Fiyaz Mughal. “It’s spread across the country and it’s clear that the level is growing and only needs a trigger incident to explode.”

The Grimsby Mosque in Northern England was targeted with two petrol bomb attacks at the weekend with several people inside. “We want to continue our normal activities but of course people are scared”, said the Imam Dr Ahmad Sabik. “We immediately condemned the crime in London, the mosque is a center of peace.”

The English Defence League (EDL) which claims it is “at war” with Islam and has links to Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Brevik has surged since the killing. Thousands of supporters marched through London Monday, chanting anti-Muslim songs such as “Who the f*** is Allah”, with several making Nazi salutes. The EDL, and fellow extreme right group the British National Party, are planning a ‘crusade’ in the coming weeks, with a major event Saturday.

The groups’ popularity has been revived since just 100 people attended a St. George’s Day rally in April. The EDL Facebook page has risen from 30,000 to 130,000 in the last week.

Several EDL members have been arrested for violent crimes, including against non-Muslims such as student Tom Stephens, who was attacked in a park. “They were drunk and asked me why I was not in the party”, Stephens, 25, told Metro. “When I made to leave one punched me in the face.”

Anti fascist group Searchlight say the surge is temporary. “People that dropped out are coming back rather than new recruits”, said spokesman Matthew Collins. “The movement is doing well on social media but we judge them offline.” However, anti-fascist groups must do more to fight Islamic extremism, Collins added.

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