West Yorkshire Police are treating the attempted arson of a mosque and a gurdwara in Leeds as a hate crime. The attack occurred at around 3:30 GMT on June 5.
The main door of the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque was set alight with a flammable liquid, according to the police. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to prevent further damage.
A short time later, at around 4:20 GMT, West Yorkshire Police responded to an arson attack on the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara which resulted in damage to its outer exterior and door.
This evening, Tell MAMA and the local Councillor for Beeston Area, Councillor Mohammed Iqbal have visited the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque and the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara and spoke to representatives of both faith institutions.
Cllr Iqbal said: ‘‘We must not let these incidents divide us. We have had challenges before in Beeston and we will overcome these terrible incidents as well. Thankfully the damage was limited and confined to one area of the Mosque and the Gurdwara. The Police have met with the local councillors and community members and giving reassurance of additional patrols across Leeds. I encourage all religious institutions of all faiths and community buildings to have a strong safety deterrent mechanisms in place such as CCTV and fire alarms.’
Tell MAMA is liaising with West Yorkshire Police to reassure communities and assist the investigation, where possible, we will provide updates where available.
Inspector Ian O’Brien, who leads on neighbourhood policing for south Leeds, said: “These incidents will cause an understandable level of concern in both the Muslim and Sikh communities in this area and we are working closely with key representatives from those communities to reassure them.”
Paul Wry, a local councillor, said that the attacks had left him with ‘such anger and sorrow’ in a tweet at 9:24 GMT. Another local councillor, Gohar Almas, who represents Beeston and Holbeck, called for unity and for the perpetrators to be found, adding that the attacks had left people both upset and panicked.
Both buildings were empty when the attacks took place, hours earlier, a Muslim man confirmed to the local Leeds Live that a few people had used the mosque hours earlier for prayers.
Members of the Sikh community also expressed their shock and following the attack.
Gutted to hear my local Gurdwara in Leeds was attacked in the early hours in a suspected racist attack. Have spoken to them on the phone and spirits are high but there is anger that it has come to this. The local mosque was also attacked at the same time. https://t.co/b5xjOsy9I2
— Pritpal Singh (@Captain_Bhangra) June 5, 2018
Between May 2013 and June 2017, Tell MAMA mapped 167 incidents against mosques and Islamic institutions in the UK, with 16 such attacks flagged as arsons or attempted arsons.
We continue to provide Muslim communities with free safety tips for young people, individuals, and institutions. The resources are also available in high-resolution PDF formats for distribution.
The incidents are being treated as hate crimes as West Yorkshire Police are linking both attacks, given the geographic proximity of the religious buildings and the timespan in which both attacks occurred.
UPDATE: A 42-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and remains in custody as enquiries remain ongoing.
UPDATE II: West Yorkshire Police have launched a CCTV appeal. Anyone with information is asked to contact Leeds District CID via 101 quoting crime reference 1318270739 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.