After receiving a stream of hate mail and death threats, the leader of a London mosque hit by a terror attack last week now fears his place of worship faces further violence. The attack on June 19, when a van veered into worshipers near the mosque, left one man dead and 11 others injured.
Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque, told VICE News that the severity of the threats have left him worrying another attack is coming. One anonymous letter, which has since been reported to the police, read: “The attack using the van was only the beginning. The fun will continue this august. There will be rivers of blood flowing down the streets — I will make sure of this. None of you vermin will survive. I mean, who would survive being gassed, or beheaded, or blown up?”
Another message demanded the mosque pay £18,445.17 ($23,919.70) to repair any damage the van suffered when it mowed down victims. The postcard reads: “Mr Osborne was not insured unfortunately, and in these times of austerity we all need as much cash as possible.”
The imam of another local mosque, Mohammed Mahmoud — who was praised for saving the suspect from an angry crowd — is also referred to as a “cloth head” in a letter, a racial epithet used to describe those of Middle Eastern origin.
“When you receive something like that, it is not a threat to an individual; it’s a threat for the whole community,” Kozbar told VICE News, adding that not enough was being done by the U.K. government to protect Muslims from hate crimes.
“When the prime minister came here, we expressed our concern — not just us, even leaders from different faiths mentioned that Islamophobia is a big issue now and we have to tackle this disease. She promised that she would do whatever they can to to do something about it. We hope that this would be the case… We want action to protect our community.”
Kozbar, chairman of the London mosque for the pastsix years, says he has seen hate crimes against Muslims increase year over year, and tells VICE News a number of local worshipers have reported being verbally and physically attacked. “We haven’t seen this issue of Islamophobia and Muslim hate crimes taken seriously by the government in the last few years… we hope that after this attack, things will change.”
Tell Mama, a group that monitors anti-Muslim hate, reports that attacks against Muslims are on the rise in Europe and the U.S. After the bombing of a Manchester concert in May, Islamophobic incidents went up fivefold.
Founder Fiyaz Mughal told VICE News that over 116 mosques have been targeted in the U.K. since May 2013. “They are just the ones that have reported threats to us, but we believe that there are many more which are not recorded because some mosques have told us they often throw away threats and hate mail. Mosques are targeted because they are a visible symbol of Islam in the community.”
As recently as Thursday, a man was arrested after attempting to drive into a crowd of people outside a mosque in Paris. Nobody was injured in the attack — the suspect was thwarted by barriers erected in front of the building.
Despite the hate mail received, Mohammad Kozbar says the mosque has been overwhelmed by the “unbelievable” messages of support and solidarity from the local community and around the country.
Watch VICE News Tonight report from the Finsbury Park mosque:
This segment originally aired July 19, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.