Fire at Muslim centre in Haverhill was a 'deliberate act' done to 'put fear into people'
An arson attack on a centre used as a place of prayer by Haverhill’s Muslim community has been condemned as a ‘hate crime’ and described as ‘unimaginable and ‘shocking’’
The vandalism at Bevan House, on the corner of Camps Road and Crowland Road, took place on Sunday night at about 11.45pm.
The building was broken into and a number of items, including Muslim books and prayer mats, were piled up in the middle of the ground floor prayer room and set on fire.
Two appliances from Haverhill attended the fire and used water jets to get in under control by 12.30pm.
The building was once used by the Red Cross and is owned by Haverhill Town Council. Since May it has been exclusively rented to the Haverhill Muslim Community Association, which uses it almost daily.
The association’s secretary, Yacouba Ibrahim, said the building was used by about 50 people, almost all of whom lived in Haverhill.
He said: “The damage is very extensive. The place can’t be used for maybe a week or the next two weeks. They’ve literally set the place on fire.
“We’ve got some Muslim books, some reading books, and then the prayer mats and they’ve put them in the centre of the room.
“They’ve set everything on fire. You can see the damage on the walls. It’s quite extensive.
“It did effect all the rooms, including the kitchen and the bathroom and there’s a toilet upstairs as well. It is deliberate. It’s a hate crime, there’s no doubt about that.
“If the motive is to steal, there is money but they didn’t touch it.
“They didn’t go into there to steal anything, they went into there to attack the community and put fear into people. It is shocking. We can’t make sense of why people would do that.
“It is going to cost a bit of money (to replace the fire damaged items) butI think the main thing that has been done is the actual effect on the community rather than the cost.
“We’ve been part of the town for 10 years and we have not experienced anything like this and for something like this to happen is unimaginable and it is shocking.”
A statement issued by Haverhill Town Council, said: “Haverhill Town Council strongly condemns the vandalism and damage at our property in Camps Road.
“Bevan House has been a valuable community space for a number of years that has been used as a young people’s training centre, band rehearsal room and a venue for community groups.
“It is currently used by the Haverhill Muslim Community Association.
“We are working with the association to assist them in finding alternative space to meet while repairs are made to Bevan House.”
The cost of the repairs to the building had yet to be established, said the town council.
Mr Ibrahim said the Muslim community was also victim to vandalism in July when one of the association’s members had a brick thrown through their car window while it was parked at Bevan House.
Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to phone the Safer Neighbourhood Team on101 and quote reference number 68250/19, go to http://www.suffolk.police.uk/contact-us/existing-report-update o email: Haverhill.SNT@suffolk.pnn.police.uk