Arson at Falkirk Islamic Centre

Falkirk Islamic CentreA fire that caused 10,000 worth of damage to Falkirk’s Islamic Centre is thought to have been started deliberately. Officers are investigating the cause of the blaze in the doorway of the Burnhead Lane premises, but don’t believe it to have been an accident.

The fire was discovered at around 2.30 a.m. on Monday by a Muslim taxi driver, who then raised the alarm. The Fire and Rescue Service attended, but the the blaze was extinguished before they arrived. Islamic Centre member Shoeb Farooqui made the call to the emergency services after the taxi driver alerted him.

Mr Farooqui said the man, who did not wish to be named, saved the centre from burning to the ground. “He normally works the night shift and was visiting the centre for a night prayer,” Mr Farooqui explained. “He just opened the door and saw the fire – it was in the early stages and if he hadn’t gone there at that time it could have burned down the whole building. It was very brave of him and lucky for our community that the fire was caught in time.”

Shaken members of the Muslim community said the Islamic Centre had been located in Burnhead Lane for 13 years and had never been targeted in this manner before. Several representatives of the centre gathered outside later on Monday morning to assess the damage, which they believed could exceed the £10,000 estimate.

Arshad Farooqui said: “This is the first thing like this that has happened at the Islamic Centre. The Muslim community in Falkirk is very peaceful and we try to integrate with the local community. We are shocked by this – it’s a really sad thing which has happened here. The vast majority of the local community are very nice and have always supported us, even during the bad times around the world.”

He added that the fire damage will make it almost impossible for members of the centre to go worship, as many of them are elderly and the smell of smoke could irritate conditions like asthma.

Centre chairman Mohammad Anwar found out about the fire at 10 a.m. on Monday. He was visibly upset when he saw the extent of the damage for himself later that day. He said: “I just can’t believe it – I can’t believe that someone would do this to a place of worship. I have lived in Falkirk for 30 years and nothing like this has ever happened before.”

The centre was locked up at 11.30 p.m. on Sunday night, so police officers are looking for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area between that time and 2.30 a.m. on Monday. A police spokesman said: “The fire was an isolated incident which was discovered by a mosque member in the early hours of Monday morning. We are now carrying out investigations into the incident to determine the cause of the fire.”

If anyone knows anything about this incident they should contact police on (01786) 456000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Falkirk Herald, 6 October 2006