Saturday, 3 March 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Hunt for arsonist who targeted Leicester mosque
Police are hunting an arsonist who set fire to a banner outside a Leicester mosque.
The large banner had been placed outside the Usmani mosque, in St Saviours Road, Spinney Hills, in honour of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.
A man was caught on camera setting it alight shortly before 1am last Saturday.
The mosque's imam said yesterday that a passing motorist stopped to put out the fire – preventing the flames from spreading to the rest of the building.
Police yesterday issued a CCTV image and video footage of a man they want to trace. He is Asian and possibly in his 30s. He was wearing a dark puffa-style jacket and dark bottoms.
Moulana Khalid, head imam at the mosque, said the banner was alight for up to 12 minutes before the motorist pulled up and used what appeared to be a large piece of fabric to stifle the flames.
Mr Khalid said: "We are very grateful to this man because the fire could have spread. He may have saved our mosque and we would like to meet him to show how thankful we are.
"People are very upset that someone could set fire to a banner, which we had put on the building for our celebrations."
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "An incident of this type, at any place of worship, would cause great distress.
"We do not know the motivation for this, but the only way to settle disagreements is to sit down together around a table and talk to each other."
Inspector Bill Knopp, commander of Spinney Hill Park police station, said: "The banner was placed on the wall to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed and the congregation has been deeply saddened by this malicious damage.
"We have been working closely with the mosque committee since the incident was reported and would urge the community to help us identify the person responsible.
"From inquiries we've conducted so far, we know a passing motorist stopped at the scene to put the fire out.
"We would urge this person to contact the police as he may be able to provide vital information which could assist with the inquiries.
"The mosque committee would also like to speak to him and thank him for his assistance during the incident.
"Any calls received will be treated in confidence."
Contact Pc Victoria Parker on 101.

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