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Distrust of Prevent scheme among reasons cited for lack of uptake of government scheme.
Widespread distrust of the Home Office’s counter-extremism strategy by British Muslims has been cited as one of the obstacles to mosques using a government scheme to protect places of worship from hate crime, after figures showed just 22 received funding last year.
The £375,413 awarded to the mosques under the scheme is a tiny fraction of the £14m provided by a separate government fund for assisting the Jewish community. Applications by 24 mosques failed.
While Muslim representatives do not criticise government funding to Jewish counterparts, they are pressing for changes to a wider scheme funding security for mosques, churches and temples at a time when most religious hate crime – 52% of all incidents last year – is aimed at Muslims.
Obstacles to mosques taking advantage of the Home Office’s places of worship protective security scheme – which was given a boost in funding after the Christchurch attacks and reopens in July – include bureaucracy surrounding the application process and the inability of mosques in some of the country’s poorest areas to pay costs upfront before being reimbursed.
The scheme had been closed at times when mosques needed to access it, including during Ramadan and after Christchurch, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which laid out concerns in a document sent to the Home Office after carrying out consultations in April and May 2019.
Without serious changes, the MCB briefing says, the scheme “will fail to deliver the desired outcomes of good uptake, trust and respect among Muslim and likely other faith communities in Britain today”.
Distrust of the government’s Prevent strategy has led some Muslim communities to ignore the fund, and instead fundraise to pay for their own security arrangements and training, according to the MCB.
While describing the provision of £5m over three years to support security training as “well intentioned”, the document contrasted this with the much smaller pot (£1.6m) for available for ‘physical security’ pointing out that most small to medium sized places of worship lack basic CCTV and alarms “which are most urgently needed first before training.”
The largest number of applications for funding last year came from mosques in the north-west and West Midlands, with 10 and 8 respectively, figures obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act show. Seven came from London, where one successful applicant received £9,283.
Churches also continue to access the scheme, with nine receiving a total of £126,832.32 last year.
A member of the inter-faith advisory panel, which overseas applications for funding under the scheme, said the uptake by mosques had been improving but that there was an ongoing debate with other members about how it should be changed.
Fiyaz Mughal said: “There basically needs to be much more money provided to cover the scale of the threat. My own opinion is that the government cannot keep pushing the line that all of the communities are in it together. The government are playing politics on this and I don’t think that’s acceptable. They need to act based on which community is most at risk.”
Mosques received 46% of the total funding available last year, followed by Sikh Gurdwaras (37%), churches (16%) and Hindu temples (1.06%).
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are proud of our Muslim communities and are absolutely committed to ensuring they, like everyone else, are able to practise their faith in safety and free from fear.
“Earlier this year the home secretary announced he had doubled funding for next year’s places of worship protective security to £1.6m. We have also streamlined the application process to make it easier to apply.”
It said more than a third of grants in previous rounds of the scheme had been awarded to mosques.
‘We have to take it seriously when someone says: “You’re next”’
The Guardian reported that Asim Uddin, the chair of the mosque management committee, he and fellow worshipers in Plaistow have become resigned to having to largely fend for themselves when it comes to funding the security of their 18-year-old place of worship against the threats that have accompanied growing intolerance.
He said the mosque had a very good relationship with the police but criticised the Home Office’s places of worship protective security scheme, saying: “When we needed to get access it was not open.”
“We’ve applied in the past but it’s quite complex. Then we were told that only 75% of the funding will be given,” he said, referring to how the mosque considered sourcing CCTV equipment. “It would have been £10,000 worth of equipment. We had to generate our own resources and then we were restricted to particular suppliers.”
Volunteers helped secure the mosque over Ramadan, but Uddin said the Home Office scheme could be better used to provide wages for security guards.
Those concerns were echoed by Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of Finsbury Park mosque in north London, where one man was killed and nine others were injured when a van was ploughed into them by the terrorist Darren Osborne, who was jailed for life over the attack.
A short-term increase in security was also put in place over Ramadan at the mosque, which tends to be on the receiving end of threats that typically multiply after events such as Christchurch.
“As a small charity we have limited funds. At Ramadan, we had to find the resources we needed to hire extra security, especially for nights, but couldn’t keep it going,” said Kozbar.
“The Home Office funding is not straightforward to apply for. There is help for doors, locks, but many mosques have that in place. What we really need is help to pay for security personnel. Our people are volunteers and are not security professionals at the end of the day.”
To access further information regarding the Home Office, Places of Worship protective security funding scheme, please visit the Home Office website using the following link: