Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Muslims 'saddened' at mosque attack

The fire damage was found at Harlow Islamic Centre when members arrived for 4am prayers

Members of an Islamic centre which suffered a suspected overnight arson attempt have said they are "very saddened" by what appears to be an anti-Muslim attack.

Police believe the incident at Harlow Islamic Centre in Paringdon Road, Harlow, Essex, took place between 10.30pm and 4am.

There had been a "concerted effort" to start the blaze by sealing entrances with foam so the fire would take hold, a member of the mosque said.

Zia Rehman, the Islamic Centre's vice-chairman, said that, although police still have to determine the motives behind the apparent attack, he suspects it may have been due to anti-Muslim prejudice.

Britain has seen a spike of hate crimes against Muslims in recent months following the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich Barracks in south east London in May.

"We have been working very hard within the local community, building bridges, and we were hoping we wouldn't have this kind of problem, but in the current climate there are elements within society that are not happy and there are issues," Mr Rehman said. "It's unfortunate and we are very saddened."

No-one was hurt in the attack and a scene guard has been set up as the investigation continues.

Mr Rehman said members of the mosque found the damage when they came in to pray at 4am. The centre suffered limited damage and was hoping to re-open in time for people to attend prayers at 1.30pm.

The mosque was set up 18 years ago when the Muslim community in Harlow grew in numbers and now serves a 2,000-strong community, according to the centre's website.

Chief Inspector Ed Wells said: "Detectives are investigating this concerning incident and there will be a significant police presence throughout the day to reassure all local residents as we seek to identify those responsible."

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