Muslim community centre accuses government of neglecting safety

The North London Muslim Community Centre is missing out on government funding to prevent hate crimes because it does not qualify as a place of worship

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Muslim Community Centre
The centre says Muslim communities have 'increasingly become both an object and victim of suspicion and fear within society' © 2018 Google

The government is waiting until an attack takes place before it takes security seriously, claims the leader of one of Hackney’s leading Muslim charities.

The North London Muslim Community Centre (NLMCC) has failed twice since 2016 to win any government funding for an anti-terrorist gate at their site in Stoke Newington.

Since 2016 the Home Office has given places of worship more than £2 million — a maximum of £56,000 per organisation — to protect themselves against hate crimes, but the NLMCC does not qualify because it is not a mosque.

Munaf Zeena, chair of the NLMCC, accuses the government of not putting resources into his community’s safety.

Zeena said: “The problem is the government doesn’t help.” He characterises the government’s approach as “wait for an attack before we do anything for you.”

Islamophobic attacks surged by 26% nationally in 2017, according to monitoring project Tell MAMA.

The centre also failed to win funding for a secure room where staff and visitors might hide from an attacker.

Zeena says that the distinction between the NLMCC and mosques is artificial. “They don’t look at reality,” he said. “In reality it’s not just mosques that could be attacked. Sometimes we’re more active than mosques.”

Although the NLMCC does take private donations, Zeena argues that the centre will not be completely safe without government funding. “It’s about trying to be as secure as possible within what we’ve got available at the moment.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This Government is clear that all hate crime, including those targeted towards a particular faith, is absolutely unacceptable. Religious freedom is a key part of our way of life and we stand in solidarity with those who experience this abhorrent crime.

“The recent Hate Crime Action Plan laid out a comprehensive set of measures to tackle hate crime, including a commitment to extend the £2.4m three year scheme to protect places of worship.”