A Chester mosque was firebombed in what police are calling a “faith hate attack” which came just hours after an alleged major terrorist plot against UK airports was foiled.
The Shahjalal Mosque and Islamic Centre, in Blacon, was targeted by an arsonist who poured flammable liquid through the front entrance of the mosque and set light to it.
Carpets and fittings in the building caught fire, but a group of people who were inside the mosque were able to stamp out the flames.
But officers confirmed they are investigating the incident, which happened hours after a major terrorist alert brought airports to a standstill across the country, as a “faith hate attack”, and a spokeswoman for Cheshire Police said the blaze itself was “a very minor incident”.
It is not the first time the Shahjalal mosque has been targeted. Last September, Muslim leaders in Chester said they believed an arson attack on the same mosque may have been connected with the London bombings.
On that occasion, a fire was started with petrol outside a side entrance of the Blacon mosque while worshippers held an all-night prayer session. Other incidents at the mosque in recent years include an anti-Islamic slogan being painted on a wall outside, and on one occasion male worshippers, who leave their shoes outside the prayer room, found they had gone when they returned.
Cheshire Chief Constable Peter Fahy, who has expressed a personal commitment to protecting vulnerable groups, has previously visited the mosque.
In 2004, Cheshire Constabulary revealed the existence of hidden CCTV cameras at the mosque in an effort to deter yobs from verbally abusing the 250-strong congregation and smashing windows of the mosque and visitors’ cars.
In the latest incident, the fire service was called at 11.58pm on Thursday to the mosque in Blacon.
A spokesman for Chester Police said: “Shortly before midnight police were called to a fire at a mosque in Clifton Drive, Blacon. A small amount of flammable liquid was put through the door of the mosque. This resulted in superficial damage.
“It is being treated as arson and investigated as a faith hate crime. Police inquiries are at an early stage and the motive for the attack is not yet known.”
Update: “Mosque attack not racist, say police”, Chester Chronicle, 18 August 2006