15/03/2019 13:50 GMT | Updated 15/03/2019 15:00 GMT

New Zealand Shooting: British Muslims Fear Copycat Attacks As Police Step Up Mosque Patrols

UK police will be "stepping up" their presence at mosques as fears in the community have "significantly increased".

Police are patrolling UK mosques and have said they will “stand together” with British Muslims, following a devastating terror attack in New Zealand which left 49 people dead. 

The comments from the head of British counter-terror police come as Muslims in the UK shared their fears about copycat attacks.  

“Today we will be stepping up reassurance patrols around mosques and increasing engagement with communities of all faiths, giving advice on how people and places can protect themselves,” Neil Basu, national policing lead on counter-terror, said in the statement.

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, a project which records and measures Islamophobic incidents, told HuffPost UK he believes British Muslims will also be on high alert over the next few days. 

He said the level of fear has “significantly increased” among the Muslim community in the UK, and that events in New Zealand will only serve to make it worse. 

“That [fear] is demonstrated by the requests by mosques for CCTV cameras, fencing and a range of security measures. Many mosques are becoming fortified centres and that is reflective of the wider fear that is pervading into communities,” he said. 

Referring to far-right activist Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Mughal said there has been a “poison” circulating online that is “fuelling violent anti-Muslim hate”. 

The massacre in Christchurch on Friday, described by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as “one of the darkest days” in New Zealand’s history, was livestreamed by the gunman on social media, and part of a right-wing ‘manifesto’ was also posted online. In it, there is reference to the Finsbury Mosque attacker, Darren Osborne. 

Pictures of ammunition were also shared and the words ‘For Rotherham’ was seen written on one of the rounds, believed to be referencing the city’s grooming scandal, which Mughal says has been used as a weapon by the far-right. 

“The three major drivers of far-right extremism over the last six years, I would say are Tommy Robinson, the grooming scandals which have been manipulated by the far right ... and the third thing I would say is they use the victims of islamist terrorism.

“I am of the firm believe that we have a problem in this country. It is not large because the British public reject extremism in general, but it is small, organised and potentially very deadly. That is what is happening in our country, and that is where the risk is.” 

A vigil for the victims of the attack, organised by Turn To Love, a global anti-terrorism campaign, has been planned for outside New Zealand’s embassy in London on Friday afternoon.  

Mughal said expected to see other vigils and other signs of solidarity with British Muslims.

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain has also spoken out, describing what happened as “the most deadly Islamophobic terrorist attack we have witnessed in recent times”.

He added that British Muslims would feel anxiety today and called for mosques to be protected. In a statement, he said: “My condolences to the families affected. As the rest of us prepare to undertake our own Friday prayers today, we do so with the anxiety as to whether our mosques and communities are safe in the face of unabated Islamophobia and hostility against Muslims.

“I call on our government to redouble its efforts to ensure mosques are protected, and call on fellow Muslims to resist the temptation to roll up the banners in fear, as this attack was designed to do.”

He added that Islamophobic terrorist attacks are not new and in the UK, in the last two months alone, two mosques in Newcastle and Manchester have been attacked by vandals who spray-painted Nazi swastika symbol.

Last October the home office reported that religious hate crime rocketed by 40 per cent across England and Wales in just one year, with more than half targeted at Muslims.