London Mosque Fire Teen Suspects Arrested, Act ‘Big Blow’ To Community

A fire at a South London mosque, said to the the biggest in Europe, had, by mid-evening on Saturday, damaged 50 percent of the ground floor and damaged administration buildings. Two boys — aged 14 and 16 — have been arrested.

Merton council leader Stephen Alambritis said that the destruction would be a “big blow” to the community, as not only is the mosque itself of historical and cultural value, but the community itself will be left wondering why this happened.

“They are tireless raisers of funds for charity – their own charities’ funds and charities in the community.”

Despite the ferocity of the blaze, fire fighters’ efforts saved the mosque. Station manager Philip Morton reported on the progress to BBC News.

“This was a large fire and our crews worked hard in difficult conditions to confine it to the administrative buildings on the site and thanks to their efforts the mosque itself escaped completely unscathed.”

The attack will most likely lead to an investigation as to motives for the attack.

Built in 2003 for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, the mosque can accommodate 10,000 people when full, so the fact that only one person was taken to hospital for breathing problems is a good outcome for what could have potentially been far more catastrophic, both in terms of architecture and human life. The mosque plainly displays the Ahmadiyya Muslim motto “Love for all, hatred for none.”

The attack happened just after the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, a commemoration of the trials and triumphs of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as remembrance of the sacrifice God called for in the bible in the story of Abraham and Isaac. In the Qur’an 16:120-121 it recounts the story of Isaac.

“Surely Abraham was an example, obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists. He was grateful for Our bounties. We chose him and guided him unto a right path. We gave him good in this world, and in the next he will most surely be among the righteous.”

The community of the Morden mosque is sure to be shaken by this attack, but until more details are known, it is premature to guess what motivated these teens and to what extent their actions cannot be said to represent the overall view of the mosque and the Muslim community in London.

[Images by Dan Kitwood / Getty Images]