A disturbing theft and arson attack on an Islamic Centre in Newton Heath, Greater Manchester has left a local Muslim community feeling vulnerable and insecure. On Friday 5th September, Greater Manchester Police were called to the NASFAT Islamic Centre on Regent Street at 11:25pm over reports that two men were stealing CCTV cameras. Witnesses described the thieves as wearing black clothes with scarves covering their faces.
Later that night, at 1:20am, the police were again called to the Centre after receiving a report that a minibus was on fire, which the congregation used to shuttle members to the Islamic Centre. Officers found that the minibus had been set alight deliberately, and two men in black clothes were seen running from the scene.
The police are treating both incidents as linked and CCTV footage from the rear of the Centre may be used to help capture the criminals. However, the police are still looking for witnesses to come forward. According to Inspector Chris Hadfield, the Greater Manchester Police is “investigating the possibility that this is a targeted hate crime and we will be working closely with our partners in the council and local community to try and track down the people responsible and prevent such an attack happening again.”
According to the Manchester Evening News, the NASFAT congregation (Nasrul-Lahi-il-Fathi Society of Nigeria) is feeling very vulnerable after such a violent attack. Chairman of the Centre, Abiola Ojo said,
“We don’t know why they are doing this. We are peaceful people. Since we have been here we have done nothing to harm the community. But whenever there are issues involving Islam in the world, something happens. We needed this bus as now some people won’t be able to make prayer meetings. But there is also the psychological effect on our members, they are now living in fear. They don’t want to come to a building where they think they might be in danger.”
We hope the Greater Manchester Police are successful in their search for witnesses and prosecution of the criminals that executed this attack. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the police by dialing 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.