Government Advisor Warns About Far Right Activists Posing as Journalists to Stoke Islamophobia11 May 2020
The Islamophobia advisor for the British Government, Imam Qari Asim MBE, warned the public that far-right activists have been posing as journalists to gather information about Muslim communities. The information, Asim says, specifically relates to the coronavirus lockdowns, with activists reportedly trying to get interviewees to talk about Muslims violating the lockdowns and congregating in order to stoke Islamophobia. Asim warned local communities and mosques to be vigilant against such individuals.
The move appears the be the latest step by far-right groups who have tried to exploit the coronavirus outbreak by stoking Islamophobia on grounds that Muslims are not abiding to lockdowns or otherwise taking advantage of the situations.
Several reports of far-right activities came from West Yorkshire
According to Asim, who is also the chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, far-right activists have been hanging around mosques that have been shut down as part of the coronavirus lockdowns in recent weeks. These reports were corroborated by the Imam of the Makkah Mosque in Leeds who said that he had received reports of people going around mosques in West Yorkshire, pretending to be independent journalists. According to the Imam, they were trying to gather information about Muslims violating lockdowns and congregating.
The West Yorkshire Police acknowledged that they have received reports about an individual going around mosques in West Yorkshire to inspect whether they are complying with the lockdown and said that he was warned about the non-essential nature of his travelling.
The police also acknowledged that videos showing mosques and Muslims still congregating have been spread online, but these were found to have been taken before the lockdown.
“Extreme right-wing groups are trying to use the pandemic to create division”
Commenting on the matter, the Muslim Council of Britain expressed disappointment that far-right groups are attempting to stoke Islamophobia, hatred and division over unsubstantiated claims during these unprecedented times. It warned that other mosques have also been accused of violating the lockdown with footage that actually predates the outbreak.
The incident appears to be the latest chapter in far-right efforts to link Muslims to the outbreak. Since the start of the outbreak, far-right outlets have been spreading conspiracy theories about Muslims violating lockdowns and even gathering in “secret mosques” to pray. These claims were often supported with outdated and downright fake footage.
These claims come despite the efforts of mosques to practice and encourage social distancing through events such as virtual sermons, Iftar events over Zoom and other means of maintaining community links from a safe distance.