A 42-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incidents in which a popular gurdwara and a mosque were set ablaze in Leeds, United Kingdom, on June 6. The police have been treating the incidents as hate crimes, British media reported. The suspect was arrested on the same night and is in custody as inquiries continue.
“We are continuing to liaise with our colleagues in the local neighborhood policing team who are maintaining an increased presence in the area and having regular contact with key representatives from the communities affected to keep them updated and to reassure the wider community,” Detective Inspector Richard Holmes of Leeds District CID said after the arrest, the Guardian reported.
The incidents happened on June 6 when the main door of the Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque on Hardy Street, Beeston, was set on fire at 3:45 am while Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurdwara on Lady Pit Lane was set ablaze a few minutes later, the BBC reported.
According to the Sikh Press Association, a bottle filled with petrol was set alight at the doorstep of the gurdwara, which ended up triggering the smoke alarm. The staff from a nearby gurdwara then called the fire brigade and police around 4.19 am to deal with the flames. The fire caused damage to the door and the pillar. The gurdwara then released a statement saying that they have attended the police emergency meeting.
The statement read: “We have been assured by the chief of Police that they are doing all they can to catch the criminals and will add extra police patrols in the area.”
The two incidents are being considered as linked by the police. “We are treating both these incidents as linked given the closeness of the locations and the similar times that they have occurred. While our investigation is still at a relatively early stage, we do believe these premises have been specifically targeted as places of worship and we are treating both incidents as arsons and hate crimes,” Holmes was quoted as saying in the BBC report.
Inspector Ian O’Brien, who supervises south Leeds, said the local police were working closely with key representatives from the Sikh and Muslim communities to reassure them and keep them in the loop as investigation develops. He also said that the police have increased patrols of the area.
“Hate crimes that target particular communities and have the potential to cause divisions and tensions cannot and will not be tolerated and we will continue to do everything we can to find those responsible and support and reassure the communities affected,” he said.
Meanwhile, Leeds Racial Justice Network came down heavily on the dearth of British media coverage of the incident, saying it revealed “a lack of concern for Muslim and Sikh lives and reminds us that the terrorist label (and public outrage) is only reserved for black and brown” people.
“These attacks follow on from racist and fascist … marches in Leeds and Manchester at the weekend and reflect a resurgence of far-right racism. Whilst we believe that the far right are still in the minority, there is a real need for the solidification and growth of anti-racist movements. With our allies across the country, the Racial Justice Network will be a part of it,” the group was quoted as saying by the Guardian.