The Bravanese Community Centre in Muswell Hill, north London, should be open for local school students preparing for their exams. But the only thing for them there today, Wednesday, was a burnt out wreck cordoned off behind lines of police, after an apparent racist attack in the early hours.
The centre was burned down, and one of the two surviving walls sprayed with the letters EDL—initials of the racist English Defence League.
Unite Against Fascism have called a vigil at the centre tomorrow, Thursday, at 6pm.
“It's just such a shock,” volunteer youth coach Ahmed told Socialist Worker. “We never thought this could happen to us. In all the years we've been here we never had any trouble until last night.”
Mahmoud, who has been using the centre for 15 years, arrived back from prayers at the mosque in nearby North Finchley to find an inferno.
“Everything was engulfed with smoke, and the fire was huge,” he told Socialist Worker. “The roof collapsed and two of the walls. It destroyed everything, there's nothing left inside.”
There is a chilling implication to the timing of the attack. The centre is mainly used by young people and for social functions such as weddings, but it is listed as a mosque—and the fire started at the time of early morning prayers.
“At that time a mosque would have been full of people, lots of people,” said local resident Abdul. “If whoever did this thought this was a mosque then their intention was to kill.”Islamophobic attacks have spiked since the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south London, last week, as racist groups like the EDL try to feed off the backlash.
“It's the sort of thing we've been hearing on the news for days, and now it's come to north London,” said Mahmoud. “What happened in south London was bad, but this isn't the way to respond. We don't want one bad incident to be an excuse for ten bad incidents.”
Abdul added, “What happened in Woolwich was nothing to do with Islam. Now we need to stand together—and get our community centre back."
In a statement Unite Against Fascism said, “Our thoughts are with the Somali, Muslim and indeed all the communities in the area that have been affected by this incident.“UAF launched the 'Don’t let the racists divide us' campaign in response to the stepped up activities of the English Defence League (EDL), the British National Party (BNP) and other racist and far right groups. They have cynically attempted to exploit the murder of Lee Rigby to pursue their own agenda directed against Black, Asian and especially Muslim communities.
"Racists are stepping up their campaign. So too must the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement in response to this hate agenda.”
DON’T LET THE RACISTS DIVIDE US
VIGILTHURSDAY 6 JUNE,
6-7pm BRAVANESE CENTRE
116 COPPETTS ROAD, MUSWELL HILL
LONDON N10 1JS
To sign the UAF statement in the aftermath of the Woolwich murder go to uaf.org.uk/2013/06/woolwich-statement/