Muslims say extra security to be placed at Britain’s mosques after Norway attacks

Some British mosques are boosting security after Norway’s horrific massacre was traced to a man who fears Muslims are taking over Europe — an attack that exposed a failure to root out Islamophobia that has bled into the European mainstream.

LONDON — Some British mosques are boosting security after Norway’s horrific massacre was traced to a man who fears Muslims are taking over Europe — an attack that exposed a failure to root out Islamophobia that has bled into the European mainstream.

European government leaders may even be feeding fears of Islam through measures such as bans on face veils on the streets, aimed at appeasing a non-Muslim majority wary about the continent’s rising Muslim population.

Muslim leaders say it’s time for governments to wake up to the threat of anti-Islamic extremism and stop pandering to far right nationalist movements that have made inroads in politics from the Netherlands to Austria. European attitudes, though, are unlikely to change overnight.

“People are looking over their shoulders and afraid that we will be the next target,” said Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, one of Britain’s largest Muslim organizations.

“He spoke to The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the sidelines of an international gathering of Muslim scholars and leaders Sunday. “As a result, we’ve told people to be extra vigilant and there will be added security placed at mosques.”

Mohammed Bechari, head of the European Islamic Conference, said that even though millions of Europe’s Muslims were born here and have assimilated into societies that consider themselves open and tolerant, “there is a rise in Islamophobia. Racism, anti-Muslim sentiments have become the norm.”

Hours after Norway’s terrorist attack Friday, a law went into effect in Belgium banning the Islamic face veil, for what authorities called security reasons. France, with western Europe’s largest Muslim population, has a similar law, and Switzerland has banned new mosque minarets.

The wall of a mosque in the Russian town of Berezovsky was defaced overnight Friday with graffiti reading “Russia for Russians!” according to the website Islamnews.ru. Muslim cemeteries in France are regularly vandalized.

When news of Norway’s attacks first emerged, suspicion immediately fell on Islamic extremists, responsible for some of Europe’s worst horrors in recent history.

That the chief suspect turned out to be a blond man with anti-Muslim, fundamentalist Christian views caught many off guard and exposed a knee-jerk Islamophobia that puts Europe’s leaders in a new bind.

Islamic terrorism is a real threat to Europe. Islamophobia channeled by extreme right groups may be a graver threat than many had estimated. Governments must try to stamp out both, while persuading their populations that Muslims as a whole are not a menace to Europe’s future.

Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik is accused of two attacks Friday, one outside government headquarters in Oslo that killed seven, and a shooting spree on nearby island that killed 86. A manifesto he published online the day of the attack ranted against Muslim immigration to Europe and vowed revenge.

“Hatred of others, hatred of those who look different, of the supposedly foreign — this hatred is our common enemy,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday. “All of us who believe in freedom, respect and peaceful coexistence. We all must confront this hatred.”

It’s uncertain whether Norway’s monstrous attack, widely condemned by religious leaders and politicians of all stripes, will jolt European leaders into attacking Islamophobia with the same zeal seen in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

And European attitudes toward Muslims are unlikely to change overnight. Bernard Godard, a consultant to European politicians on Muslim issues, says far-right parties are channeling frustrations in communities with high poverty and unemployment and directing their anger at Muslim immigrants.

“We need to ask: Are we passing to a new stage, a new level of anti-Muslim sentiment with these attacks?” he said. “The ideas of the extreme right have become ordinary. We should pay more attention to what they are saying.”

He said police have not paid enough attention to groups such as France’s nationalist Bloc Identitaire, which uses online organizing to stage provocative mass public parties with wine and pork sausages — both forbidden under Islam.

In Britain in recent weeks, a pig’s head was left at a mosque outside of Oxford, while there have been repeated attacks on women wearing headscarves and full-face coverings, Shafiq said.

Muslim groups say they have long warned Britain’s police of increasing hostility from far-right groups.

Shafiq said security discussions were under way with police in Manchester, home to many of Britain’s nearly two million Muslims.

Thousands will be gathering at mosques this week ahead of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that begins at the end of the month. Manchester police would not immediately confirm the talks.

Britain’s Muslims have seen an increase in attacks since 2005, when homegrown suicide bombers killed 52 people during morning rush-hour attacks in London. Since the suicide bombings, and the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, more resources have been dedicated to fighting Islamic terrorism instead of far right or left extremism.

Dalil Boubakeur, the moderate rector of the Grand Paris Mosque, said no new security measures are yet planned but urged “vigilance” and said there is a “reflection” under way about what to do next. “There is a fear for the future.”

In France, critics say President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to sap support for the far-right National Front and its popular leader Marine Le Pen ahead of next year’s presidential election, by borrowing populist language about France’s national identity that is seen as code for anti-Muslim views.

Sarkozy’s party insists that the laws it has championed on the face veil and banning headscarves from the classrom are aimed at protecting women’s rights.

Bechari, of the European Islamic Conference, said the laws “are seen among Muslims as laws that exclude them” — not integrate them, as Sarkozy’s party claims it aims to do.

Far-right political groups that have gained some ground in recent years in Europe sought to distance themselves from Norway’s attacker.

“Terrible attack in Oslo, many innocent victims of violent, sick mind,” Geert Wilders, one of Europe’s best-known and influential anti-Islam politicians, said on Twitter.

Wilders, who spent years on the fringe of Dutch politics, was the kingmaker of the right-wing government elected last year. Wilders, responding to news accounts that the shooter shared his party’s anti-Islam views, called him a “sick psychopath” and said his party “abhors everything that this man stands for and has done.”

The all-white British National Party, which does not accept nonwhite members and calls for the “voluntary repatriation” of immigrants, won two of Britain’s 72 seats in the European Parliament, gaining ground in economically battered areas that once were strongholds of Britain’s left-wing Labour Party.

In Belgium, the far-right nationalist party Vlaams Belang — Flemish Interest in Dutch — has been pushing for stricter limits on immigration, fighting in particular what it calls the growing “Islamization” of Belgian and Flemish cities. In elections last year, Vlaams Belang won almost 8 per cent of the vote, down from 12 per cent three years earlier.

Vlaams Belang didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Germany lacks any mainstream political party with anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric as a central tenet, but there has been growing tension about perceived dangers posed by Muslim immigrants.

Last year, a book by former central bank board member Thilo Sarrazin — which used blunt, often harsh language to portray Muslim immigrants as welfare cases weakening German society and making it “dumber” — became a bestseller — although Merkel condemned its tone.

Abdullah Anas — a Muslim cleric who delivers sermons at some of Britain’s largest mosques and used to be an ally of Osama bin Laden before he fell out with him over the prospect of a global holy war — said the Norway attacks would likely be raised at some of this week’s Friday prayers.

“It is a challenge for everyone — Muslims and non-Muslims — because there is a lot of anger that must be contained,” Anas, originally from Algeria, told the AP. “There are too many people who think the killing of innocents is acceptable just because they are angry over certain things.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

With a ban on sit-in dining set to begin at noon Friday, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up and outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions, and is selling his own branded seasonings, salsa, guacamole, tequila bags, margerita kits, and even aprons like the one he is wearing.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

Artist Delree Dumont has painted an Indigenous mural at St. Joseph High School. (Contributed photo)
Indigenous mural painted on Red Deer high school walls

A new Indigenous mural now sits on the walls of St. Joseph… Continue reading

Jessica Swainson learned about improvisation and filmmaking at The Hub on Ross before its closure. She’s pictured here with her former Hub instructor Jason Steele. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer city, arts council are working to close ‘gaps’ left by The Hub’s closure

Could some popular Hub programs be resurrected at Northside Community Centre?

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Experts warn of economic implications from Rogers wireless outage

A massive wireless outage that has left customers of Rogers Communications Inc.… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal Budget 2021: Liberals bank on child care, business aid to prod growth

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are betting that billions more in debt… Continue reading

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

VICTORIA — The University of Victoria says the head coach of its… Continue reading

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley announces proposed new legislation to protect Alberta’s mountains and watershed from coal mining at a news conference in Calgary on Monday, March 15, 2021. A group of 35 scientists from the University of Alberta are urging the provincial government to rethink its plans for expanding coal-mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta scientists urge adoption of bill that would protect against coal mining

EDMONTON — Some 35 scientists from the University of Alberta are urging… Continue reading

A driver shows identification to an Ottawa police officer as a checkpoint as vehicles enter the province from Quebec Monday April 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Quebec and Ontario impose travel restrictions to slow surging virus variants

Ontario and Quebec imposed new interprovincial travel restrictions on Monday amid growing… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
LaGrange: Feedback needed to refine curriculum

As the Minister of Education my role has been guided by a… Continue reading

In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

TOKYO — The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with… Continue reading

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, greets Bayern's Lucas Hernandez at the end of the Champions League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PSG, Bayern the big names missing from Super League plan

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The plan for the new Super League soccer competition… Continue reading

Most Read