Wirral mosque torched in bombings backlash

Jul 11 2005
By Sam Lister And Graham Davies, Daily Post

http://iccheshireonline.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100regionalnews/tm_objectid=15722484&method=full&siteid=50020&headline=wirral-mosque-torched-in-bombings-backlash--name_page.html

A MUSLIM cleric last night spoke of his terror as he was trapped inside a Merseyside mosque set ablaze in a suspected backlash attack following the London Tube bombings.

Assistant priest Boshir Ullah, 36, was cut off in his upstairs bedroom after petrol was thrown at the door of the Shajala Mosque in Birkenhead and set alight at 1am on Saturday.

As he opened the door he was forced back by smoke, and fire crews had to rescue him by breaking a window.

Mr Ullah said: "I had heard someone kicking very heavily on the door downstairs at about 12.35am so I called the police. But when they arrived there was no-one there. I went to sleep but I was awoken by a faint noise downstairs.

"I opened my bedroom door to see what was going on, and there was a huge fire inside the mosque.

"I was terrified for my life. There was nowhere to escape and the fire was approaching towards me. I didn't know what to do - I called 999 and the fire brigade came and rescued me. They had to break the window and they carried me out."

Paramedics treated Mr Ullah for smoke inhalation and he had recovered from his injuries last night.

Police cordoned off the mosque - the only one in Wirral - while they carried out forensic examinations.

Head priest Arkan Ali said the Muslim community in the borough was living in fear.

He said: "We believe we have been targeted because of the London bombings. We have been here 10 years and every time something happens we are targeted. We were attacked after September 11, we are living in fear.

"On Friday when we were walking down the street people were shouting 'Paki, Paki' and terrible things.

"We want to move away. There have been too many problems."

The mosque is a small building on a row of derelict shops on Borough Road near to Birkenhead Library.

Its windows have grilles on, and since the last attack - when fire bombs where posted through the door after 9/11 - the letterbox has been sealed up.

The latest attack came just days after four bombs exploded in central London, killing at least 49 people.

Fears of retaliation attacks have sparked extra security at likely targets.

Officers were stationed outside Birkenhead's mosque on Thursday but prayers continued as normal on Friday.

Abdul Munim, chairman of the mosque, stressed that extremists thought to have carried out the London bombings should not be associated with other practising Muslims.

He said: "Firstly we would like to condemn wholeheartedly the incidents in London and our sympathy goes out to the families and friends of the victims.

"Whoever committed these acts were cowards, who indiscriminately killed innocent people.

"The Islamic religion is about living with others in harmony, and there should be no connection with the people who committed these atrocities and the Islamic faith.

"What happened here was a dreadful act that could have been far worse had it not been for the fast actions of the police, fire and ambulance services.

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the emergency services for their continued support for our community as a whole."

Chief Superintendent Alan Jones, of Merseyside Police, described the attack as "senseless and very dangerous".

He added: "It is of great importance in the current climate that Merseyside sees itself as one community, and we must be united in our condemnation of those that would target people based on their age, race, religion or gender.

"Merseyside Police works hard to establish links with all communities, especially those that may see themselves as vulnerable at the moment."

Steve Maddox, chief executive of Wirral Borough Council, said: "I am appalled by this incident - the act of one or two stupid people.

"Wirral has always been home to a diverse range of people that live happily and peacefully side by side. Wirral Council is committed to ensuring that that continues to be the case."

Police are now checking CCTV footage and have taken witness statements. Officers are looking for two men who were seen in the area immediately before the incident, the first described as a white man, aged between 20 and 25, about 5ft 9ins tall with a medium to stocky build. He had dark unkempt hair with stubble on his face, was dressed in dark clothing and was on foot.

The second is described as a white man in his early 20s. He was unshaven, wearing dark clothes and was riding a bike.

Alec McFadden, president of the Coalition Against Racism and Fascism in Merseyside, last night said his organisation would "move heaven and Earth" to find the culprits.

He added: "There is no doubt that nobody in Merseyside who is a practising Muslim was involved in the terrorist attack in London.

"We will be contacting all faith organisations and trade unions in the area to assist the police in catching the perpetrators of this act of attempted murder."

samlister@dailypost.co.uk





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