Muslims were part and parcel of the stunningly successful London 2012 Olympic and Parlyampic games. From torch bearers to games-makers, small business entrepreneurs to performers, and traffic wardens to sports legends, they gave their best to make Britain great in last year’s historic moment.
Yet just one year later things have turned sour in their mosques and centres up and down the country, even in this month of long fasting which is full of contemplating and giving.
The horrendous killing of drummer Lee Rigby by two deranged young Britons of Islamic faith, has brought right wing wrath on British Muslims. In response, British Muslims came out immediately and unequivocally to condemn Rigby’s brutal murder. Following a series of attacks in our towns and cities, Muslims are now paying a dear price. Terrorism has turned its ugly head on the Muslim community.
A mosque was vandalised just hours after the suspected terrorist attack in Woolwich. An Islamic centre in north London, run by Somali Bravanese Welfare Association, was destroyed by a fire in an apparent hate crime attack; the letters EDL were sprayed on to the building. The Darul Uloom School in Chislehurst had suspicious fire; following this the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “These are difficult times for London’s communities. The Met is now investigating suspicious fires at two locations within the Islamic community which have happened in the past few days.”
One football player, Shaun Tuck, who plays for Witton Albion, tweeted : “All the mosques in England should be gassed or bombed, or stormed by 50 lads with machetes, swords the lot. And make a statement.” West Midlands force said they were treating a bomb attack at a mosque in Tipton as terrorist incident .
Muslim graves were desecrated at a Newport cemetery; a pig’s head was thrown at another mosque; and swastikas were daubed on the windows of a new mosque in Worcestershire; counter terrorism police found traces of explosion and debris in Wolverhampton Central Mosque and at a mosque in Walsall, while police carried out controlled explosion at a Liverpool mosque. Two Ukrainian men are now being held in connection with the attacks at Tipton, Walsall and Wolverhampton, and over the murder of an 82-year-old Muslim man in Birmingham at the end of April.
But alas, there has been little leadership from the g overnment to tackle this ugly onslaught on the community. According to The Muslim News , a monthly newspaper in the UK, the prime minister has declined to condemn recent terrorist attacks targeted at the three mosques in West Midlands.
But whatever the political temperature in the Westminster village, the litany of graffiti, vandalism, arson, pig heads and bacon being thrown has continued. Sadly, while this was going on and when the anti-Muslim hate crime project, Tell MAMA , reported a massive spike in Islamophobic abuse after Lee Rigby’s murder, Tell MAMA itself was then attacked by right-wing columnists.
All this has recently prompted the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the national Muslim umbrella body, to write a strong letter to the Home Secretary and Communities Secretary ‘urging a concerted national response’ from the government to attacks against Muslims.
Many see the Government’s lacklustre response to this surge of anti-Muslim hate crime as a contradiction to the spirit of London 2010 with its robust Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policy, initiated by LOCOG with the help of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The D&I policy was implemented in letter and spirit before and during the games and brought our nation together with a unique spirit of equality. LOCOG was serious in making sure that the Olympic and Paralympic values of excellence, friendship, respect, courage , inspiration and equality prevailed. D&I was implemented in all decision making areas, which it maintained until the end of the Games.
What has happened to this London 2012 spirit in just one year? Yes, some areas of legacy, such as volunteering and sports, are going quite well. The economic legacy also looks promising; the g overnment recently announced almost £10bn economic boost from London 2012 . However, while these are important in their own right, keeping the spirit of diversity and inclusion alive for all people, irrespective of their background, is fundamentally important. If this is missed we will all suffer.
This is where we appear to be faltering and this is where we, our government and citizens, need to concentrate. When a religious community feels vulnerable in its places of worship there must be something going wrong.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is former Secretary General of Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10) and a LOCOG Board member. He is an educationalist, writer and freelance parenting consultant .
Follow him on Twitter @MAbdulBari