BIRMINGHAM: Five mosques in British city of Birmingham had their windows smashed with a sledgehammer overnight, prompting an anti-terror investigation and calls for more police protection ahead of Friday prayers.
In one attack at the Witton Road Islamic Centre in Witton, seven windows and two doors were smashed up. The mosque’s imam said that the attack took place between 1.30am and 2am with West Midlands Police saying they were alerted to the other attacks throughout the night.
They were yet to confirm the motive behind the late-night rampage and the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit was also investigating.
The five mosques attacked are on Albert Road, Birchfield Road, Slade Road, Broadway and Witton Road in the city.
Officers were called to the mosque on Birchfield Road at 2.32am before realising that the attack had happened earlier. At 3.14am, they were alerted to a similar attack at the mosque on Slade Road, Erdington.
Police then began patrols in areas with mosques and came across the other damaged buildings. Forensic officers were working to identify evidence, and CCTV was being examined. Footage of the damaged Witton mosque was posted online by Labour party Councillor for the Bromford and Hodge Hill ward, Majid Mahmood.
He tweeted: ‘Unfortunately the Witton Road Islamic Centre was attacked overnight by an individual who used a sledgehammer to break the windows. “I said last week that Muslims were afraid after the terrorist attacks in Christchurch. We need support in Brum.”
His words were echoed by the Imam of Witton Islamic Centre. Sharafat Ali, 66, told Birmingham Live: “It’s terrible; the community is shocked because of what’s happened in New Zealand. We’ve been here for 30 years. In the morning you get 40 worshippers for morning prayers, on Friday you get about two to three hundred. This doesn’t happen in Aston. Tomorrow is Friday prayers and I don’t know what’s going to happen. We are asking the police to give us more security.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “Deeply concerning and distressing to see number of mosques have been vandalised in Birmingham overnight. @WMPolice are investigating motive but let me be clear – hateful behaviour has absolutely no place in our society & will never be accepted.’
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, tweeted: “The reports of attacks on mosques across Birmingham are truly terrible. I have spoken with the Chief Constable & will be in constant contact with community leaders throughout the day. I would urge all residents to remain calm & call Crime Stoppers with any info you may have.”
The Jame Masjid on Birchfield Road in Birmingham also had its windows smashed with a sledgehammer
West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson said: “Since the tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand, officers and staff from West Midlands Police have been working closely with our faith partners across the region to offer reassurance and support at mosques, churches and places of prayer. At the moment we don’t know the motive for last night’s attacks. What I can say is that the force and the Counter Terrorism Unit are working side-by-side to find whoever is responsible. At difficult times like this, it is incredibly important that everyone unites against those who seek to create discord, uncertainty and fear in our communities.”
John Cotton, Labour councillor for Glebe Farm and Tile Cross areas in the city, tweeted: “Appalled to see that Birmingham mosques have been the target of vandalism and violence overnight. I’m working with @WMPolice & @BhamCityCouncil to ensure we find those responsible & support our Muslim communities. These thugs do not speak for Birmingham & will not divide us.”
A statement from the Birmingham Council of Mosques said: “We were deeply horrified to hear a number of mosques were vandalised during the early hours of this morning.”Birmingham’s mosques are a place of worship, serenity and a source of peace and tranquillity. We are appalled by such acts of hate/terror.”