Hindu premises targeted in third night of arson

HINDU temples, cultural centres and business premises were targeted in a third night of arson attacks in Britain, following the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in India on Sunday, but a Sikh temple in Luton also suffered extensive damage.

So far, Sikhs have not been involved in the conflict between Muslims and Hindus in India, and some Muslims in this country were quick yesterday to point to the Luton incident as evidence that Muslims were not responsible for the wave of arson attacks.

West Midlands Police have said that two white youths were seen in the vicinity of an attack on a Hindu temple in Coventry on Monday night, but elsewhere police have little or no evidence as to who might be responsible.

A representative of the International Muslim Organisation, which held an emergency meeting yesterday at the Pakistani Community Centre, Willesden Green, north-west London, said of the Luton attack: 'I think this is the work of fascists who cannot tell the difference between Sikh and Hindu temples.'

The meeting of about 50 imams and other Muslim community leaders expressed 'outrage' at the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque and condemned the wave of attacks in Britain. Maulana Abdul Siddiqi, president general of the IMO, said: 'We are not responsible for these attacks. British Muslims believe you should respect people of other faiths and respect their places of worship.'

Dr Kalim Siddiqui, leader of the self-styled Muslim Parliament, told the meeting he believed it likely that British National Party or National Front members were behind the firebombings.

Bedfordshire Police said yesterday that some items were stolen from the Guru Ravidass Sikh temple in Luton, but it appeared that the main aim of the attack was to start a fire.

A spokesman said: 'The Sikhs have played no part whatever in the problems in India. It seems foolish criminals may be trying to inflame the situation.'

In Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, a fire caused substantial damage to the Indian Workers' Association community centre, which is used by all ethnic groups in the town.

In Bradford, the office of a Hindu estate agent and a Hindu shop have been damaged by fire, in addition to five attacks on Hindu temples and Hindu cultural centres there since the weekend. Other attacks on Hindu temples and property have taken place in Wembley, West Bromwich, Birmingham, Bolton, Oldham and Derby, and leaders of Hindu and Muslim communities have repeatedly appealed for calm.

Muslim community leaders in Bradford have called a mass meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation. Iqbal Sacranie, convenor of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, said yesterday that Muslims in the city could have been provoked by Hindus distributing sweets outside a temple on Monday, in celebration of the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque.

'I have no information as to whether Muslims were involved in the attacks in Bradford, but it is important that we all refrain from these sort of provocations: they can only accelerate the violence,' he said.

A man is to appear in court today charged with arson at an east London Hindu temple. Ahmed Rezza, 20, unemployed, of Gower Road, Forest Gate, will appear before Newham West magistrates accused of arson at the temple in Forest Gate on Tuesday.

Curfews fail to halt riots, Page 14