Burglars have targeted a town centre mosque in an apparent hate attack. Raiders broke into Chapel Walk Mosque in the early hours of Tuesday morning. They ransacked offices, stole money from a collection box and damaged microphone equipment. They also threw copies of the Qur’an on the floor, leading one faith leader to blame right wing elements.
Rotherham Council of Mosques chair Saghir Alam said: “There was a lot of damage. I just can’t understand it. This is meant to be a place of peace, spirituality and worship.” He added: “This went beyond burglary because they didn’t just steal something and leave – they’ve damaged the electrics and thrown our holy books around. I can’t say for sure it was a hate crime, but these facts suggest that it is.”
Fiyaz Mughal, director of national anti-bigotry group Tell MAMA, said: “Given that the place was smashed up and holy books thrown on the floor, this could well be a hate crime. People target mosques because they are very visible institutions, so sadly this isn’t news to us.” He added: “Before the march on Saturday some were putting addresses of mosques on Twitter and saying: ‘Let’s smash them up.’”
Last week Chief Supt Jason Harwin said police are working with mosques to stamp out attacks on innocent Muslims, following a spate of street attacks. Saghir said officers have been “very proactive” in investigating these reports, as well as Wednesday’s break-in.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that officers responded to the burglary, but played down links to Islamophobic crime. “There is no indication at this stage that this is a racially motivated incident, but rather connected to a series of burglaries within the town centre,” she said. “South Yorkshire Police is working closely with the local community and business owners to provide reassurance.”
Two males were seen leaving the area following the break-in and heading towards College Walk. Anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting incident number 120 of September 17. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.