Security stepped up at mosques and temples

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The Independent Online
MEMBERS of Britain's Hindu and Muslim communities are taking extraordinary security measures as the wave of arson attacks on places of worship, sparked by the destruction last weekend of the Ayodhya mosque in India, continued yesterday.

Some have issued their members with personal alarms, while others have hired security firms to patrol temples and mosques at night.

Two fires were started deliberately in a Hindu temple in Leeds yesterday. In Derby, about 20 worshippers attending morning prayers at the Jamia mosque extinguished a minor blaze when a mat was set alight after a petrol bomb was tossed through the door.

Three days ago, the ground floor of the city's Hindu temple half a mile away was gutted in a pounds 60,000 arson incident, the first of many such attacks throughout the country.

In Sheffield, arsonists hurled petrol bombs into the Hindu Samaj temple in Burngreave, setting fire to the caretaker's flat.

The attack in Leeds was initially believed to be on a Sikh gurdwara, also in the building, but officers discovered two minor fires in the temple. The first, near a side door, was extinguished with no damage. The second caused minor damage to a carpet and wall.

A Hindu temple in Ealing, west London, suffered slight damage early yesterday when its double doors were doused in petrol and set alight. It was the third such attack on a temple in the capital in two days - the Shri Sanatan temple in Wembley, north-west London, was targeted by arsonists early on Wednesday, and on Tuesday night the Swaminarayan temple in West Ham, east London, was slightly damaged.

Despite appeals for calm from Muslim and Hindu leaders, there have also been incidents in West Bromwich, Coventry, Birmingham, Luton, Bolton and Bradford.

Following yesterday's attack in Sheffield, a police spokesman said a special watch was being kept in sensitive areas of the city. But police reassurances are not enough to calm the fears of many members of the Asian community. Leaders of the Prajaparti temple in Bradford have hired a security guard to protect the premises from night-time arson attacks. Harkisham Mistry, secretary of the city's Hindu Youth Centre, said all of its 'high-profile' members had been issued with walkie-talkies or mobile telephones because of fears for their safety in the wake of the attacks on Hindu centres.

Yesterday, Mr Mistry issued personal alarms to another 20 members. He said that some of them had been followed by cars being driven 'suspiciously'.

'We have told all our members to take down number plates of such cars and to report them to the police. We are taking every precaution for our safety,' he said.

There are an estimated 1,500 Muslim mosques, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras in Britain. Where hiring outside security help is not possible, some members have taken to sleeping overnight in their places of worship. Mr Mistry said that it was because four Hindus decided to sleep overnight at the Hindu Cultural Society in Bradford on Wednesday that they had been able to immediately extinguish flames from a firebomb attack and prevent serious damage.

Ali Fazali, head of security at Regent's Park Mosque in central London, said that the mosque community had been on 'full alert' since the weekend.

'We have increased our security system, we have plain-clothes people during the day asking suspicious visitors what they are doing, and at night we have our own security staff patrolling the area as well as the police passing by every 15 minutes.'

He said they had had up to 10 break-ins in the last 16 years: 'We have caught them on the spot every time.'

But Dr Mohammed Ghayasuddin, a member of the Muslim Parliament, said that he was not urging members of the Muslim community to step up security at mosques. 'Security is the responsibilty of the police, and the police should have realised much earlier than they did that after what happened in India there would be expressions of emotion here too.

'We have told our community to make sure they are not involved in any violence. But we are emphasising that the police should make sure that no place of worship is attacked,' he said.

Bombay riots, page 12

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