Friday, June 25, 2004


correction: The International War on Islam

Aussie mosque set on fire
25/06/2004 12:30 - (SA)

Melbourne, Australia - Police suspect arsonists were responsible for a fire at a mosque that sent worshippers running from the building on Friday, a day after vandals desecrated a Muslim prayer hall in Sydney, smearing blood on its walls and leaving pigs' heads impaled on stakes.

More than 500 people were in the mosque in Melbourne when the fire broke out in the kitchen area. No one was injured, police said.

"We were scared and had to make a run for it," said Mohammed Hackim. "Some people started screaming and we looked around and saw heavy smoke."

Fire department officials suspect arsonists were behind the blaze and estimated the cost of the damage at A$100 000 ( about R440 000).

The mosque was to be officially opened on the weekend, Hackim said. It was also supposed to serve as the imam's residence.

"We think that we have no enemies around us and hope this is the case," he said.

The attack on the prayer hall on Thursday was in Sydney. In addition to the blood-smeared walls and pig heads on stakes, pork offal was strewn across the hall.

Pork and related products are forbidden for Muslims under religious law.

Police said investigators would work with religious leaders to identify the vandals.

Officers said they did not believe the two incidents were linked.

Australian Muslims comprise 150 000 in the country's total population of 20 million.

Since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in America, Arab and Muslim Australians say they have suffered more verbal and physical abuse and most live in fear of racist attacks, a human rights watchdog reported two weeks ago.

A prayer hall differs from a mosque in that it is open for a limited number of hours, has no full-time Islamic leader present, and does not offer teachings in the Muslim holy book, the Qu'ran.

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