[Aftermath of arson attack on Harlow Islamic Centre in Essex]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
A 28-year-old man from Harlow was arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with an incident at the Harlow Islamic Centre on August 26.
The man is currently in custody and will be questioned by detectives in due course.
No-one was hurt in the attack and a scene guard has been set up as the investigation continues.
Police have released still and moving CCTV footage of suspects.
Officers said it appeared someone had sprayed insulation foam around the doors and windows and then set fire to it. The centre suffered limited damage.
Footage shows three figures at the site and police are hoping to release pictures later this week.
One of the men is seen to be holding a drill while another can be seen with what police believe to be a canister of insulation foam.
Police were contacted by leaders of the Islamic centre at 6.30am after they had attended early morning prayers and found insulation foam sprayed under all of the shutters which cover the doors and windows.
In a statement to The Muslim News Supt Trevor Roe said: “It is clear from the CCTV footage this was a premeditated, deliberate attempt to cause serious damage to the Islamic centre. The three men come equipped to carry out the damage and also take everything they brought with them away again.”
Chair of Harlow Islamic Centre Ajaib Hussain told The Muslim News the damage to the centre could have run in the thousands had the arsonists not placed the foam on the wall but “15 inches either on the left hand side or right hand side were the wooden frames were. The attack was certainly premeditated and you can tell the men were local because they looked like they knew their way round the area, they were confident.”
Hussain praised Essex police for their prompt response and strong presence in the aftermath of the attack as well as the local community’s positive feedback .
“We had general crimes on the centre but the only other Islamophobic incident happened six months ago when I received a letter through the post…it contained a CD with a message of ‘Islam out of the country’ or something to that affect. I reported that but it turned out to be part of a national campaign other Islamic centres received it too – but that was an unrelated incident,” said Hussain.
Conservative MP for Harlow Robert Halfon said: “There are some people who live in the undergrowth and behave as vermin and they come out at night and do this kind of terrible thing.
“I have no other words to describe them but as scum of the earth. I believe they won’t succeed. Why is that? Firstly because Harlow Islamic Centre is a very special place. It is a tolerant and beautiful place and at the heart of our community and I am very proud that it is here and I know they will go from strength to strength despite having to endure this latest outrage. ”
The centre was set up 18 years ago now serves about 2,000 Muslims.