NNA – A man in Birmingham has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after an 82-year-old Muslim worshipper was set on fire as he walked home from the Dudley Road Mosque.
The West Midlands police said the attacker spoke to the victim briefly before spraying him with an unknown substance and before setting his jacket alight, causing burns on his face.
"He was taken to hospital with serious injuries which are thankfully not believed to be life threatening," said Birmingham police commander Richard North.
Speaking to Anadolu, Haji Bashir, vice chairman of Dudley Road Mosque, said the whole community is devastated with the incident. The mosque officials have been actively in communication with the police since Monday night, he said.
Bashir welcomed the news that the suspect was found and taken into custody.
“However, the whole community is in great sorrow. The victim was a local and regular worshipper at our mosque. There’s a great sense of anxiety amongst the community. Children didn’t want to go to the school in the morning while the attacker was out on the streets,” Bashir said.
As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is starting on Thursday, Bashir said the heartbreaking incident shows that there is a need for tighter security measures around the mosques. “Today it was the Dudley Road Mosque, but tomorrow same thing could take place in Alum Rock, Cape Hill or other areas. Lessons need to be taken.”
Police said they were also aware of a similar incident that took place in West London on Feb. 27 and are working with the Metropolitan Police Service to uncover any possible links.
"We're examining CCTV and speaking to witnesses. I've been speaking to people this morning, and so I know just how concerned they are and that people are after answers. We are determined to get those answers as soon as possible, and I'd urge the community to work with us and to avoid any speculation at this stage," Chief Superintendent North said.
He said the investigation continues with support from counter-terrorism police, who have access to specialist capabilities to help establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.
"We have officers patrolling the local area to reassure people and we are visiting local faith establishments to keep them informed. We would ask the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior to us."
Birmingham, a city with a population of 1.2 million, is home to more than 300,000 Muslims. The minority group is reportedly not only facing discrimination in their daily lives, but also face thousands of physical attacks each year.
In 2018, a cross-party group of parliamentarians issued a report on anti-Muslim hate, urging the government to officially define Islamophobia. So far, the government has refrained from taking any action.
While the ruling Conservative Party is dealing with the claims of Islamophobia within the party, it appears such recognition for anti-Muslim prejudice is not anytime soon in the UK. —–Anadolu Agency