Police sought to calm fears yesterday that a suspected arson attack on an Islamic centre in Luton was revenge for the picketing of homecoming British troops by Muslim extremists in March.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the UK’s leading Islamic body, said the incident, in which an explosive device was thrown into the centre just after midnight on Tuesday, was motivated by Islamophobia.
The MCB said the Call to Islam Education Centre had received threats from far-right groups two weeks after Muslim protesters picketed a homecoming event for soldiers with “Butchers of Basra” placards. The MCB called on mosques and Muslim businesses, community centres and schools in the area to take extra precautions against attack.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the MCB, said: “Although the investigation is still ongoing into this shocking crime, we cannot ignore the clear correlation between the rise of Islamophobia with the rise of extremist far-right groups in Britain.”
Bedfordshire police said there was no evidence to suggest at this stage that the fire was started by far-right extremists, although a spokeswoman said two threatening letters “full of unpleasant, racist vitriol” had been received by the centre.
Farasat Latif, the centre’s secretary, said: “We believe that this attack was carried out by far-right extremists, an attack that could have led to many deaths. Over 90 children attend our centre daily. Had this happened at a different time, the results would have been catastrophic.”
See also Inayat Bunglawala’s piece at Comment is Free, 8 May 2009