Posted by Abdul Alim
The Harlow Islamic Centre in Essex is an unassuming building. A former community centre, set back from the main road, it has seen various incidents of vandalism over the years; youngsters misbehaving, nothing out of the ordinary. That all changed on Sunday 25 August, when three young men visited the mosque in the middle of the night, prised open the shuttered doors and windows to spray insulation foam underneath, and set it alight. Only minor damage was caused, but there were no two ways about it: this was pre-meditated.
“It was a racist attack,” says Ajaib Hussain, chair of the centre. “They came to target the mosque.” Three young men have since been charged. The damage was reparable, but the impact of the incident can still be felt. Extra security cameras have been installed at the centre, and regular police patrols started. “Our community was shocked, sad, and afraid that it would happen again,” says Hussein. “But we are resilient. The support from Muslims and non-Muslims in Harlow after the attack has been overwhelming.”
What happened in Harlow was by no means unique. On 5 June, a mosque and Somali community centre in Muswell Hill, north London, was burnt to the ground by arsonists. On 18 June, the Masjid-e-Noor in Gloucester was set alight. On 23 May, the windows at Maidenhead’s mosque were broken. The list goes on.