A top-level police investigation has started after far-right activists entered a number of mosques in Bradford and distributed British Army Bibles and “anti-grooming” leaflets.
Members of Britain First are thought to have targeted ten mosques across the city on Saturday, with their actions attracting widespread condemnation from political and faith leaders. On its website, the party described the activity as the start of its “Yorkshire brigade”, stating it would be the first of many such operations across the county against Islam.
Superintendent Ramzan Mohayuddin, of Bradford District Police, said: “West Yorkshire Police are aware of a small group handing out leaflets in Bradford on Saturday.
“We are currently assessing their content and the manner in which they were distributed to establish if any offences have been committed.
“We are working closely with our local community and religious partners to keep them informed of our investigation and if any offences have been committed, appropriate action will be taken.”
In a joint statement, Councillor David Green, leader of Labour-run Bradford Council, Councillor Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, and Councillor Imran Hussain, deputy leader of the Council and portfolio holder for safer communities, said they had received reassurances from police that all places of worship were safe and that a high-level investigation was under way.
“We stand together to condemn strongly this outrageous behaviour by outside agitators in some mosques over the weekend, and understand that nobody from the Bradford district was involved in these incidents,” said their statement .
“All houses of worship should be treated with respect by all members of every community, regardless of their faith or culture, and anybody who enters any house of worship must abide by the rules of that religion.
“An attack on any house of worship is an attack on everyone and the whole of the Bradford district. We will not tolerate any place of worship being disrupted in an aggressive way and subject to disrespect.
“All right-thinking Bradfordians will reject Britain First’s deliberate, provocative attempt to try to create division and hatred.
“We urge everyone to come together in support of all our communities and the right to religious freedom.”
Zulfi Karim, vice-president of Bradford Council for Mosques, said it was working closely with the police and Bradford Council, and urged anyone with any concerns about their own mosques or community centres to contact them. He said. “We can give reassurance that we have seen no evidence of any mosque being desecrated by these disrespectful and despicable incidents.”
Bishop Tom Butler, the Acting Area Bishop of Bradford, said the actions of Britain First were “most unhelpful” in a city he described as having worked long and hard to build good community relationships and mutual respect between faiths. George Galloway, Respect MP for Bradford West, said he met senior police chiefs yesterday and paid a visit to the mosques that had been affected. “I tweeted about this desecration of Muslim holy places and received an explicit threat from them (Britain First),” he said. “I have handed over a screen grab of it to the police force.”
Yesterday, Paul Golding, Britain First leader and a former BNP councillor, tried to excuse his group’s actions as “a Christian crusade”.