Scotland urges for inclusion in Places of Worship Security Fund following recent attacks

  • Fri,11 Jan 2019 02:27:48 PM

British Asia News Network

Smita Sarkar

London: The Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), on behalf of ethnic minorities, has called on the Scottish Parliament to urge the government to deal with increasing hate crime in Scotland by providing security funding equivalent to England and Wales. Since June last year, places of worship that have been subjected to or could be vulnerable to hate crime attacks were supported by the Home Office with a further £1 million funding.

Scotland is exempt from claiming the Places of Worship Security Fund that was introduced by the Tory government in June last year, following the terror attack in Finsbury.

The campaign is spear-headed by HFB’s regional Vice President for Scotland, Puneet Dwivedi. The HFB is the largest umbrella body for British Hindus, with more than 320-member organisations from around the country, and is often the first port of call for the central government.

Puneet Dwivedi, VP of HFB (left) with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and Wege Singh, Secretary of the Gurdwara

 While successful applicants in England and Wales could receive up to £56,000 towards improved security to counter hate crimes at their premises, Scotland has been completely excluded from accessing the benefit of this new fund.

The Edinburgh Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre has been the target of repeated attacks and attempts to break in. A ‘significant sum’ of the money is reported to be have been taken from a donations box in the most recent attack in December last year when detectives released CCTV footage of a man suspected to have been involved in the case. The temple authority fears there could be fresh attacks while the man stays at large.

CCTV images of a man suspected to have been involved with repeated attempts to break into the Edinburgh Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre

Samir Desai, the Treasurer of the temple said that while the police and local authorities have been very supportive, the Priest lives in constant fear of being attacked and robbed.

“This is not the first incident. We have beefed up security. Alarms have been put all around the temple to stop their attempts of forced-entry to the temple, but we are concerned about the repeat attempts. We are anxious for Panditji (the head priest) who is on his own the whole day. He is cautious, but there is a real threat,” said Samir.

Mukund Joshi, the Secretary said that the increased security also means that the police are keeping constant vigil. “Cash funds from the premises are being removed on a regular basis. Ethnic minority establishments of worship are being targeted in Scotland (referring to the arson attack on a Gurudwara) and we need to protect ours and other religious establishments from being attacked repeatedly.”

Edinburgh Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre

The Places of Worship Security Funding scheme, which launched in 2016 and is worth £2.4 million in total, has helped 89 churches, mosques, temples, and gurudwaras to install protective alarms, security lighting and CCTV cameras to deter attackers.

The Minister for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams, said: “Communities being able to worship their religion free of intimidation, violence, or abusive behaviour is a vital principle at the heart of the values we share in the country.

“This scheme has already helped many places of worship bolster their security and we encourage those who have suffered from or fear hate crime attacks to apply.”
The Hindu Forum of Britain’s (HFB) regional Vice President for Scotland, Puneet Dwivedi, in a petition to the Scottish Government, urged the government to deal with the increasing hate crime in Scotland and extend the security funding scheme for hate crimes to the region. He questioned the lack of access to this fund in Scotland.

The Hindu Forum of Britain’s (HFB) regional Vice President for Scotland, Puneet Dwivedi with Ian Stewart, Executive Director and Wege Singh, Secretary of Sikh Gurudwara

The Petition Read:

“Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to deal with increasing hate crime in Scotland and provide security funding same as England and Wales – Places of worship: security funding scheme

There have been several instances of Hate crimes at various minority religious places, most of these incidents are reported to the police but there are some which go unreported. For example:

Robbery at Edinburgh Hindu Mandir:

Visitor's car vandalised at other places of worship in Edinburgh and Gurudwara also reported to the police.

There is already a scheme in place for the rest of UK to provide extra security for a place of worship, but not Scotland. We are asking to have a consultation and provide same security scheme in Scotland, irrespective of the religion – be it churches, gurudwaras, mosques, or Hindu temples. The response to the appeal was:

In August last year, the doors to the Guru Nanak Gurudwara in Edinburgh were set alight in a deliberate attack which caused smoke damage to the Gurdwara. The police arrested a 49-year-old man for the suspected arson attack. The Gurudwara provides the only place for worship for about 500 people of the Sikh community who live in the Scottish capital.

In a statement made in June 2018, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, introduced the places of Worship Funding Scheme affirming: “We are a country of many faiths, and as I said following last year’s appalling terror attack in Finsbury Park an attack on one community is an attack on all of us.

“Freedom of worship, respect, and tolerance for those of different faiths is fundamental to our values and I am determined to stamp out extremism and hate crime wherever it occurs… Security at places of worship is important to provide congregations with peace of mind, but let me be clear - where groups of individuals incite hatred or are engaged in vile, religiously-motivated criminal activity, they should expect to be prosecuted and face the full force of law.”

The government’s website stated “The United Kingdom has a place in one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence, and bigotry and we keep it under constant review to ensure that it remains effective and appropriate in the face of new and emerging threats.

“We are working with communities to ensure people know how to report any hate incidents and where to get support…ensuring the police now record hate crimes by the religion of the victim.”

The bidding for the Places of Worship Security Fund opened on 8 June 2018.

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