Teens on bail following arson attack on Essex mosque
Two teenagers were arrested and later released on bail following an arson attack on a mosque in Essex.
Curtains and carpets in the Northbrooks Mosque's prayer area were damaged in the fire attack last week. No injuries were reported, and the prompt actions of firefighters limited damage.
Essex Police said they were treating the incident as racially aggravated arson.
Two boys were arrested on suspicion of arson and later released under police bail until 18 October.
The mosque's secretary Jamal Uddin said the fire had "absolutely devastated" everyone.
Despite the incident, hundreds turned up for Friday prayers. The prayer was so popular some worshippers even crowded outside, according to the BBC.
"All the people, the brothers praying in here, are shocked because we are a very peaceful community in Harlow and all the elderly neighbours are very nice to us when we come here, park our cars, but some youngsters are disturbing us and we feel unsafe." Imam Sheikh Saleh Hamidi said, BBC reported.
History of attacks
It is not the first time the mosque has been vandalised. On previous occasions, windows have been smashed, CCTV damaged and dog faeces thrown at the main doors.
In response to the recent incident, there was a noticeable police presence in the area.
Chief Inspector Paul Austin, Harlow district commander, said: "I have personally been in consistent contact with faith and community leaders to ensure our communities feel they are safe and are being supported.
"There will continue to be a policing presence in the area throughout today and the coming days and I would encourage anyone who has any concerns to please speak with those officers; they are there to help and reassure you."
Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said: "I am shocked and appalled to hear about this incident. Whatever the motives are for this, we will not tolerate any attacks on our communities and as a town we stand united.
"I praise both the fire service and the police for dealing with this incident so quickly. An investigation is underway, and arrests have been made.
"I have spoken with the imam at the mosque to offer our support and express our support for the community. We will remain in close contact with the police on this matter. "
Last year a report revealed that almost half (42%) of mosques and Islamic institutions experienced religiously motivated attacks in the past three years.
The survey, conducted by MEND (Muslim engagement and development) in collaboration with Muslim Census, also found that 35% of Islamic institutions experienced a religiously-motivated attack at least once a year.
The most common form of attack is vandalism, followed by theft, though 17% of mosques faced physical abuse directed at staff or worshippers.