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Petrol bomb blamed in 'racist' attack on mosque

A fire at an Edinburgh mosque early yesterday is being treated as a racist attack...

A fire at an Edinburgh mosque early yesterday is being treated as a racist attack. The blaze at the Pakistani mosque and community centre is believed to have been started by a petrol bomb thrown through window.
Lothian and Borders police say they are investigating the possibility that the attack, which damaged the prayer area on the ground floor, was a response to events in America. The mosque in Annandale Street, which opened in the late 1990s, is used by up to 300 people for Friday prayers, but the hall above is used every day for activities such as after-school classes for 80 children.

Alternative accommodation will have to be found for prayers tomorrow when those attending will be joining a multi-faith day of prayer across the country in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on America.

Muhammed Aslam, the chairman of the Edinburgh Pakistani Association, said that he was concerned, shocked and saddened by the fire.

He said: ?We are lucky that no one was in there at the time and that nobody got hurt. It was really worrying what happened in America and the community here stands shoulder to shoulder, and expressed its sorrow and horror and wants to make their solidarity with the American people.?

Lord Yousaf Inait, the founder of Edinburgh?s first mosque in 1967, described the fire as alarming but said he hoped it was an isolated incident.

?I?m really shocked because only yesterday we had a press conference organised by the Church of Scotland in which it was decided to have Friday as a day of prayer for the followers of all religions in respect of what happened in America,? he said.

?The most important thing now is for us to explain to the public that Islam does not allow any terrorism or killing of any innocent persons.?

Alastair Christie, the chief executive of the Edinburgh and Lothian Racial Equality Council, said: ?I think in the Muslim community this would obviously be very worrying. There has been concern in the community since the September attack.

?But there has also been a lot of positive things happening ? people wanting to reassure those from black and ethnic minority communities, particularly the Muslim community, of their support.?

Inspector Dave Sturrock of Lothian and Borders police said: ?A passer-by noticed smoke coming from one of the windows of the building and notified the fire brigade and police. Circumstances indicate the fire is suspicious and inquiries are continuing.?

A militant Muslim cleric taunted David Blunkett, as the Home Secretary was detailing his plans at the Labour conference to deal with Islamic extremists, by boasting that he would be ?honoured? to be jailed.
Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, who appeared to issue a death threat against the President Musharraf of Pakistan in a radio interview last week, predicted that for all Mr Blunkett?s dire warnings yesterday the Government will shy away from jailing him as they don?t want to create ?a hero or a marytr?.