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How bad is the anti-Muslim backlash in London?
After a brutal murder is allegedly committed by two Muslim men, mosques are attacked, anti-Islam obscenities shouted, and women's headscarves ripped off
Well-wishers leave flowers where 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby was killed in south London.
Well-wishers leave flowers where 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby was killed in south London. AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
W

hen off-duty soldier Lee Rigby was hacked to death in broad daylight last week in the Woolwich district of London, Britons were very understandably shocked and horrified.

The two suspects, Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are British citizens of Nigerian descent. They are also Muslims.

That last fact has sparked a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in London and all around Britain. A new YouGov poll shows that the number of Britons who believe "British Muslims pose a serious threat to democracy" jumped to 34 percent after the killing, up from 30 percent in November. The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of people in the U.K. believe that a "clash of civilizations" is coming between British Muslims and white Britons, up 9 percentage points from last year.

How has that attitude affected British Muslims? Here is what they have had to face so far:

The fire-bombing of a mosque
On Sunday, Diler Gharib, chairman of the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre, told the Grimsby Telegraph that he and other worshippers were praying at their mosque in the town of Grimsby when it was fire-bombed:

We had just finished our prayers and were discussing how to thank our neighbours for the support they have shown us over the past few days when we heard a bang and saw fire coming under the door. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out and then two more petrol bombs hit the fire escape and the bin so I had to put those out too. [Grimsby Telegraph]

CCTV footage confirms that three fire-bombs were thrown over the complex's gate, according to The Guardian. The mosque's imam, Ahmad Sabik, referred to it as an attempted murder.

There have been a total of 10 attacks on mosques throughout the country since last week's Woolwich murder, reports The Independent.

Protests in the streets
Around a thousand supporters of the right-wing English Defence League (EDL) marched through London on Monday chanting things like "Muslim killers, off our streets." The crowd gathered outside of British Prime Minister David Cameron's home and, according to Reuters, yelled anti-Islam obscenities.

Members of the EDL were also active hours after the attack in Woolwich, The Guardian reports, with members throwing bottles at the police and chanting anti-Islam slogans. The group's leader, Tommy Robinson, expressed his group's opinion on the world's second largest religion:

"They're chopping our soldiers' heads off. This is Islam.

Our next generation are being taught through schools that Islam is a religion of peace. It's not. It never has been. What you saw today is Islam." [The Guardian]

Around 1,500 members of the EDL also marched in the northern English city of Newcastle, which resulted in 24 arrests for public drunkenness, vandalism, and handing out racist literature, according to the Associated Press.

Reports of anti-Muslim incidents rise dramatically
Fiyaz Mughal, director of interfaith non-profit Faith Matters, said his group received 162 calls in the two days after the Woolwich attack from people who said they were the victims of anti-Muslim incidents. On a normal day, the group receives around five complaints.

Mughal, a former army officer, explained how bad the problem was to the BBC:

"What's really concerning is the spread of these incidents. They're coming in from right across the country.

Secondly, some of them are quite aggressive very focused, very aggressive attacks.

And thirdly, there also seems to be significant online activity... suggesting co-ordination of incidents and attacks against institutions or places where Muslims congregate." [BBC]

The incidents include verbal harassment, graffiti and attacks on mosques, and people pulling off women's headscarves, Mughal said.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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