Muslims up in arms at mosques on Army firing range

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The Independent Online

The Ministry of Defence has apologised after it emerged that model mosques had been erected at the end of a North Yorkshire firing ranged used by the British Army.

The Bradford Council for Mosques (BCM) was angered by the structures at Catterick Garrison. "Relationships between the Muslim Community and the Army are very fragile at the moment, and this seems like a silly thing for the Army to do," said Ishtiaq Ahmed of the BCM.

"It gives us the impression that mosques are regarded as buildings of potential danger. This is totally unfair as mosques are places of peace. They don't represent a danger to anyone. We felt that by using these mosques as a target, the British Army is sending the wrong messages to its soldiers. That kind of indoctrination and conditioning of young men is very dangerous and unhelpful."

An Army spokesman apologised for the offence caused. "It was never our intention for these generic structures to look like or replicate mosques, only to provide a setting similar to operational environments in which our personnel could train," he said.

The BCM asked the MoD yesterday to remove the structures immediately, to apologise to the Muslim community and to guarantee that similar incidents would not happen again.

Mr Ahmed said he would wait until the structures had been removed before discussing how such incidents could be avoided in the future.

Green domes are symbolic of the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, which is one of the holiest Muslim monuments in the world. "By making the domes green, this is implicitly an attack on the Muslim faith," added Mr Ahmed.

"It is crucial that our armed forces train at ranges that replicate the environment they will be deployed to," said the Army spokesman. "We have no intention of offending religious sensibilities."

The Army is seeking a meeting with representatives from the Muslim community to discuss their concerns and offer reassurance.

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