LONDON — Authorities have pledged to protect British Muslims in the wake of Monday's terror attack outside a London mosque, amid rising hostility and fears of more copycat atrocities.
The city's police commissioner, Cressida Dick, said Monday's attack, which hit worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan, was clearly "an attack on Muslims."
Local residents told NBC News they no longer feel safe.
“We’re scared there is no safety,” said Finsbury Park resident Joi Mario, who is a practising Muslim. “People are always blaming Muslims [for attacks]. Of course people are going to hate us,” he said.
In the six days following the London Bridge terror attack, London's Metropolitan police recorded 120 Islamophobic incidents compared to 36 during the preceding week, according to the Mayor's office.
Police also recorded 381 racist hate crimes, compared to 313 the week before, the mayor's office said.
Tell MAMA, a U.K. organisation that monitors anti-Muslim attacks, also detected a sharp rise in such incidents following the May 22 terrorist attack in Manchester, when a suicide-bomber attacked young concertgoers leaving an Ariana Grande gig. The number jumped from 25 in the week before the attack to 139 the following week, according to the organization. The vast majority were recorded in the local area.
Vowing “zero-tolerance” of hate crime, Khan said London would remain “uncowed by terrorism” and would “carry on being a united city.”
Britain's Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said extra resources to protect communities would remain in place "for as long as is needed."
But mosque security-expert Shaukat Warraich warns that little can be done to protect against the emergence of low-tech terror attacks on soft targets such as crowds in the street.
“This type of attack cannot be stopped,” said Warriach, who is the director of the Faith Associates, an organisation that provides security to British mosques.
“The only way to stop this is as soon as someone shows signs of radicalization to report it to the police,” he said.
Warriach, who works with some 2,000 mosques across the country and has published a ten-point plan to improve mosque security, said the uptick in attacks on mosques throughout the U.K. could he traced back to the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in a London street four years ago.
“To be honest we were expecting this,” Warriach said, adding: "What we’re seeing is the radicalization of white people.”
We’re scared there is no safety
Warriach told NBC News that the increased violence was partly a reaction to ISIS and partly due to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the far-right.
“This rhetoric is galvanizing unhinged people to carry out attacks,” he said.
NBC News security analyst Duncan Gardham agreed that there had been an increase in anti-Muslim racism since Rigby’s murder.
He partly attributed this to the government not doing enough to support Muslims in the aftermath of that killing.
“The murder of Lee Rigby worked as a touchstone for far-right groups,” Gardham said.
But he added that Britain remained a remarkably integrated nation when compared to countries in the rest of Europe and North America and that there had been widespread support for Muslim communities in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.
The suspected driver of the van in Monday’s attack was identified as Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old father of four from Cardiff, Wales.
He was initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, but was later also charged with the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.
A Muslim neighbor described Osborne as a pleasant, “everyday guy," telling Reuters said she had never heard him utter any anti-Muslim rhetoric.
However, other Muslims living in Osborne's neighborhood told The Daily Telegraph that Osborne had become increasingly antagonistic following the June 4 London Bridge attack and a witness to Sunday night's mopsque attack, Ibn Omar, 25, said he saw Osborne "laughing and ridiculing Muslims.”
Osborne's mother has said her son had long-standing mental health issues.
The van attack came days after Britain marked the first anniversary of the death of lawmaker Jo Cox, who was killed by a white supremacist who shouted “Britain first" before stabbing her.
U.K. Security Minister Ben Wallace said Monday that the far-right in Britain was becoming increasingly organized.
“At the moment we don’t seem them as organized as other terrorist groups but we certainly see them as taking advantage of the internet and social media to be more organized than they’ve ever been before and to be more slicker in their grooming,” he told Channel 4 News.
London mayor Khan told reporters Monday that the U.K.'s anti-radicalization scheme, known as "Prevent", tackled other forms of extremist ideology and not just Islamist extremism.
That was echoed by Wallace, who said that authorities in some parts of Britain made more "Prevent" interventions over far-right radicalization than Islamist extremism
Gardham, NBC News' security analyst, said far-right and Islamist radicalization mirrored each other.
“We see fathers taking their sons along to rallies with the far-right much as we’ve seen with some of the radical Islamists,” he said. “Rather sadly the two sides do mirror each other and can feed off each other."