A Muslim organisation has called for calm and unity following reports that a former imam has died after being attacked in a children’s playground on his way home from a mosque in Rochdale.
The man, named locally as Qari Jalal Uddin, was understood to have been walking home from prayers at the Jalali Jame mosque on Thursday when the incident occurred.
He was found by passers-by in a play area at the end of South Street, in Wardleworth, just before 9pm.
Greater Manchester Police said the man, in his late 40s to early 50s, had sustained a serious head injury.
He was taken to hospital, but died a short while later.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said Mr Uddin’s death was “shocking and tragic”.
“The news that a popular local Imam from Rochdale was murdered last night returning from prayers at a local mosque is shocking and tragic,” he said in a statement.
“Whilst it is too early to speculate about the circumstances of the murder we would urge the community of Rochdale to stay united and calm.
“Qari Jalaluddin saab was on his return home from Jalali Jame Mosque when he died.
“We pay tribute to him and his unique contribution to our community in Rochdale.
“We offer our sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and the wider community.”
Police have not confirmed reports that Mr Uddin was attacked, but the Ramadhan Foundation - which aims to foster community cohesion - urged all mosques in Rochdale “to consider emergency security precautions and facilities to help local people return home safely from the mosque.”
A major investigation has been launched into Mr Uddin's death by police, with a Home Office post mortem due to take place later today.
Detective Superintendent Jon Chadwick, of GMP’s serious crime division, said: “A man has sadly died after being found injured by passing members of the public, and we are now doing all we can to try and identify who he is, so that we can speak with and support this man’s family.
“Our investigation is at an early stage but we are keen to hear from anyone who may have been in the area near to where he was found in Wardleworth last night, as we work to establish how this man came to suffer his head injury.
Superintendent Rick Jackson said police officers are carrying out extra patrols of the area.
“If you have concerns or believe you may have seen, heard or know anything that can assist this investigation then please approach one of these officers,” he said.
“There has been a lot of speculation on social media about what has happened but I would to ask that people allow us to investigate this incident and if you have information then please contact police.”
Anyone with information should call the police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111