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Islamic centre blazed in suspected “terror” crime

28th Jul 2017
Islamic centre blazed in suspected “terror” crime

(Photo: Nasfat Islamic Centre)

Elham Asaad Buaras

An Islamic Centre in Manchester has been gutted by fire after the third suspected arson attack in three years. Detectives have launched an investigation into the arson attack that destroyed much of Nasfat Islamic Centre in Droylsden Road, Newton Heath, at 11.40pm on July 16.

Officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) out on patrol spotted the fire engulfing the building used by the Nigerian community. Investigations so far have established that the offender approached the premises and forced open a window before placing an unknown accelerant inside.

Thirty firefighters were called to tackle the fire, the third to hit the building since 2014, according to a mosque spokesman. The main prayer hall and three classrooms had been gutted in the fire, which ripped through the roof of the building.

According to one of Nasfat officials, Yassin Abou, the centre has previously been targeted by vandals who threw two pigs’ heads inside and urinated outside the building in the past year. In the past, as people were praying, thieves stole shoes from the centre, he told The Muslim News.

“Alhamdulillah [thank God] we were lucky that no one was injured or killed in the arson terrorist attack,” he said.

Secretary of the Center Hajia Monsurat Adebanjo-Aremu, told The Muslim News the blaze was serious and that it the congregation are “quite scared at what happened”. “We are very disappointed at what has happened. We have good relations with the local community, police and the council. It was more than just a hate crime. We believe it is a terror attack as the fire for to terrorise the Muslim community,” she said.

The classrooms for the children have been set ablaze, she said. “It is quite unfortunate that we are part of the community and someone is still trying to do this to us.” The attack took place after Isha [night] prayers. They are going to pray Jum’a [Friday] prayers in nearby Brookdale Park. They organised a peace march from the Park to Sterling Centre in centre Manchester and back to tell people that “we are a peaceful people.”

They have put CCTV in the past but it gets damaged within a day to two.  “I don’t know why it’s happening because we’ve been good to the neighbours and the neighbours know us very well.

GMP revealed the number of race hate crimes has returned to normal levels in Manchester following a 500% surge in the month after the suicide bombing on May 22.

GMP, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Walker confirmed to The Muslim News the fire is being as a hate crime. GMP says it is taking a zero-tolerance approach following a huge spike in anti-Muslim incidents since the Manchester Arena attack.

In a statement to The Muslim News Manchester Council of Mosques urged the police “to treat this act as an act of terrorism to find out whether those who committed this act did so for the ‘purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.”

Chair of the Manchester Council of Mosques, Qadir Ahmad Chohan told The Muslim News: “The arson attack on the Islamic Centre in should not only be a great concern to the Muslim community but should be a great concern to all of us. If we don’t speak out or if we turn a blind eye against those that commit these awful crimes, those that spread hate will only increase their grasp on the communities around us. We need to stamp this out now and we urge the police and the security services around us to tackle this terrorism.”

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