Police probe broken gas pipe at Worthing mosque

A SICKENING fire-bomb attack on Worthing's mosque has rocked the town's Muslim community.

Muslims have been left deeply shocked by Friday's arson attack on the mosque in Ivy Arch Road, which was started in a downstairs prayer room at around 5.30am.

The fire-bombers, according to members of the Worthing Islamic Society, broke in through the mosque's back door and set light to a gas pipe they had cut. And if it wasn't for worshippers turning up for early morning prayers, the mosque could have been burnt to cinders.

Ali Abdul Rahman, chairman of the Worthing Islamic Society, said: "We are very sad someone could do this and we are just hoping it is not a racist or religious attack.

"We are peace-loving people and we would hope if the people who did it would come and see us and talk to us we could help them and make them better people."

Two people, a 17-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man, who are both from Worthing, have since been arrested on suspicion of arson and have been released on bail. They have not been charged.

The fire started sometime before 5.30am and it is believed, by members of Worthing Islamic Society, arsonists broke into the mosque through a back door.

Once inside, they started a fire in a ground floor room, which is used as an over-flow prayer room, by setting light to a gas pipe they had cut. They spread white spirit on the floor and attempted to make a bonfire of a mattress and some chairs.The mosque was badly smoke damaged.

This was the second attack on the mosque in just eight weeks - previously people broke in and damaged equipment.

The fire was discovered by Dr Mahmoud Sarhan and another doctor, who had gone to the mosque for early morning prayers.

Dr Sarhan, an eye specialist at Worthing Hospital, said: "We looked under the doors at the front of the mosque and could see and smell the smoke. We went inside and opened the windows upstairs, before calling the fire brigade.

"We noticed the back door was broken. We thought it was an accident at first but now we are beginning to think otherwise. We want to live in harmony and peacefully in the society."

Firefighters from Worthing, the police and a forensic scientist were called to investigate the fire. And more than 150 Muslims had to gather outside behind the mosque for their 1pm prayers.

Mustafa Yunis, of Chesswood Road, said in a letter to the Worthing Herald: "We Muslims of Worthing feel abused, victimised and terrorised. Islamaphobia is real and it exists.

"We remove our shoes before we enter our mosque out of respect. Before we even take a seat, we make a prayer for our mosque. Where we place our hands in prostration - they dowsed with petrol. Where we raise our hands to the heavens - they struck their match.

"After our Friday prayer, a community leader got up to make a short speech. He seemed baffled. Baffled as to why such an evil, calculated act would occur to a community, which has contributed so much to Worthing's society."

Yacoub Purches said: "I am disappointed but I am relieved the fire hasn't destroyed the place. It is now going to cost us more money to do the repairs and this is hard to come by."

Security is now going to be stepped up at the mosque to stop this from happening again.

The mayor of Worthing, Jack Saheid, who attends the mosque, revealed worshippers have now set up a fund to pay for the repairs.

Mr Saheid, pictured at prayers above, said: "It really was an atrocious incident. All places of worship are houses of God and, quite frankly, these people who go and smash up places of worship should be severely dealt with by the courts. I don't think this was a racist attack.

"The Muslim community in Worthing is very peaceful and they were terribly shocked by the fire. I would like to thank the police and the fire brigade for their help and prompt action."

Worthing MPs Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton echoed the anger and shock at the attack and called for CCTV cameras to protect the mosque.