The hero imam of Finsbury Park suffered “sad and reckless” Islamophobic abuse after attending an inclusion event at a London mosque to promote unity in the wake of the New Zealand massacre, in a new sign of the hate crime blighting the capital.
Imam Mohammed Mahmoud said he was called “despicable” and a “s***hole” by a man on a bus and later spat at by a cyclist as he made his way home from meeting the Home Secretary, religious leaders and London Mayor Sadiq Khan at Regent’s Park mosque yesterday.
They had been there to promote inclusion and tolerance and to hear Mr Javid – who today announced a boost in security funding for mosques – pledge to do all in his power to protect Muslims in this country from aggression and intolerance.
Imam Mahmoud – who was acclaimed for calming fellow Muslims to prevent retaliation against far-right terrorist killer Darren Osborne after the Finsbury Park attack in June 2017 – said the Regent’s Park event had been “important and beautiful” and praised the “great work” that had led to it.
But he said that his experiences as he returned home had illustrated the continuing threat posed by Islamophobia in this country as he described how he had been “subject to Islamophobic abuse in two separate incidents on my way home from the event.”
“The first was on public transport on my route home,” he said.
“A middle aged white male on the bus told me I was “despicable” and a “s***hole” and that the whole country was “f***”. When I asked why – he said it was because I was wearing a dress.”
Imam Mahmoud said that a “white lady on the bus” had “clearly showed her disapproval of the Islamophobe and support for me – which was nice to see” but that, after getting off, he was abused for a second time “on Whitechapel Road where a cyclist spat at me.”
The Imam added: “I chased after him but he got away. It was so sad to see such reckless hate and Islamophobia after the event and after all we have been through this week.”
Imam Mahmoud said he would be reporting both incidents to police after returning from a trip to New Zealand, which he is flying to today to visit the mosques that were attacked in Friday’s massacre and to meet survivors and show support for Muslims there.
The abuse directed at the Imam will heighten concern about the number of Islamophobic incidents occurring in London and other parts of Britain over recent years.
They include a suspected far-right stabbing in Stanwell, near Heathrow, over the weekend, and several other incidents of alleged Islamophobia in other parts of the country in the wake of the New Zealand killings.
In the capital, Met figures show that the number of Islamophobic crimes peaked in June 2017 – which was also the month of the London Bridge attack – with 368 offences recorded then. Numbers have dipped since then with 79 such crimes recorded in February this year.
One of London’s chief crown prosecutors, Ed Beltrami warned earlier this year, however, that he believed many incidents were not being dealt with properly by police with cases being rushed through the courts without the hate crime element being pursued.
Campaigners also argue that the true scale of Islamophobia, and other hate crimes, is not always being reflected in official statistics because of the reluctance of some victims to come forward to report such incidents.
In response to such concerns, the Home Secretary today announced that the budget for the government “places of worship protective funding scheme” will be increased to £1.6 million next year – double the sum allocated this year.
The criteria to qualify for a grant under the scheme, which can also be used to protect synagogues and churches, will be relaxed so that any site which is deemed at risk will be eligible for financial support to install security measures.
An additional £5 million will also be provided over the next three years for protective security training to enable worshippers and others to gain instruction on how best to safeguard those who attend mosques or other religious venues.
Announcing the extra money today, Mr Javid said: “The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all.
“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.