Appeal for calm after London Muslim center burnt

Tensions have been high in London since murder of UK soldier; far-right English Defence League denies Islamic center arson.

June 6, 2013 17:41
2 minute read.
Firefighters walk past the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre that was damaged by fire, in north London June 5

London Islamic center arson 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON – Muslim groups in the UK are calling for Islamophobia to be taken seriously after an Islamic center in London was burned down in a suspected racially motivated attack on Wednesday.

Tensions have been high in the capital since two radical Muslim converts brutally hacked to death Lee Rigby, a British soldier, on a London street last month.

On Wednesday, the Somalian Islamic Bravanese Welfare Center in Muswell Hill, north London was burnt to the ground in a suspected arson attack. The far-right English Defence League has been linked to the attack after the letters “EDL” were found sprayed in paint on an adjacent wall.

In a statement on Thursday, the Muslim Council of Britain called for police to tackle anti-Muslim attacks seriously, and for the media to exercise responsibility and not give a platform to extremists of any background.

Farooq Murad, the council’s secretary-general, said that “this is the latest in a series of attacks on Muslim institutions since the horrific murder of Lee Rigby. The British Muslim community came out in droves to condemn this murder, and it is despicable that Muslims should be held to account and suffer in this way.”

Pointing his finger at the EDL, Murad said it was time for action against such crimes.

“We had fine and decisive words from our leaders condemning the actions of the EDL, now we need a proper response from our police authorities, starting with a national police response to this issue. Admirably, local police forces and borough commanders have been liaising with communities,” he said.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said he was shocked by the attack.

“There is no place in an open, tolerant and diverse city like London for hate, for prejudice, for violence,” he said. “London is a city built on the strength of its communities.

Londoners will see this for what it is – cowardly, pathetic and utterly pointless.”

The Jewish community in London condemned the fire and expressed solidarity with the Muslim community.

The rabbi of Muswell Hill synagogue said it would not disrupt the harmony between the communities and offered the community’s help.

“This terrible attack on a peaceful community center has shocked us all and the sympathies of everyone at Muswell Hill Synagogue are with our local Muslim community today,” said Rabbi David Mason. “We will work to ensure that the community have all the support they need and that this disgraceful incident does not disrupt the harmony that exists between all our local communities.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed concern over the attack.

“Attacks of this nature are an affront not only to the Muslim community, not only to all minority groups, but to all decent people in this country,” said Board president Vivian Wineman.

Tommy Robinson, the leader of the EDL, denied that his group was behind the attack.

He maintained that EDL members have always been instructed not to attack mosques or other places of worship and claimed there was a “nationwide campaign” to vilify the group.

Since the murder of Lee Rigby, campaigners say that anti-Muslim incidents have increased across the country with 11 mosques targeted.

Monitoring group Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) have said that there has been 632 hate incidents targeting Muslims since March 2012.

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