A two-story Islamic center burned down overnight in north London in an incident being treated as possible arson. Rescuers found ‘EDL’ scrawled on the building’s remains, fueling fears of a racially motivated revenge for the bloody Woolwich execution.
The fire broke out at around 3:15am local time at a Muslim
community center in Muswell Hill, north London, an area
which also contains the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre and the Bravanese
Centre. All had existed undisturbed for at least 20 years.
“The place has been absolutely destroyed. The community is shocked and very distressed because they have been here in peace for the past 20 years,” Mohamed Ali of Somali charity BritSom told local newspaper the Evening Standard. He said that he was certain the event was linked to the Woolwich attack.
The cause of the fire in Muswell Hill is currently under investigation and it is being treated as suspicious at this stage.— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 5, 2013
Some 35 firefighters in six different fire engines were called out to battle the blaze, with locals also reporting the presence of helicopters. Police and fire officials said that it took around an hour and a half to bring the blaze under control.
Image of the fire that destroyed a Somali community centre in Muswell Hill this morning twitter.com/NrthLondonNews…— North London News (@NrthLondonNews) June 5, 2013
“There were several fire engines and I think even a helicopter. It was terrible. This will really shake the community up,” one witness identified as ‘Nurein’ told the Evening Standard.
A statement released by the local metropolitan police commander said “We are at the very early stages of investigating what happened in the matter,” and reiterated the importance of the Bravanese Centre in the local Somali community.
Just been handed this statement from Barnet's borough commander Adrian Usher in reaction to fire twitter.com/TimLamden/stat…— Tim Lamden (@TimLamden) June 5, 2013
No injuries were reported as a result of the blaze, although one woman suffered from shock.
Anti-Islamic hatred has spiked in London since the brutal killing and beheading of Lee Rigby, 25, by two men who said the murder was motivated by the UK’s involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The UK saw Islamophobic sentiment intensify in the wake of the killing, with the English Defense League (EDL) arranging thousand-strong marches and religious campaign group Faith Matters reporting an explosion in calls related to incidents of anti-Islamic violence.
Two men have already been arrested for firebombing a mosque in an Islamic district of the northeastern seaport of Grimsby on May 27, fueling fears that a divide between Muslims and non-Muslims in the UK’s cities is deepening.