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Braintree: Mosque leader speaks out after attack

PUBLISHED: 12:46 24 May 2013 | UPDATED: 12:46 24 May 2013

Al Falah Braintree Islamic Centre

Al Falah Braintree Islamic Centre

Archant

AN Essex MP has called for calm after an Islamic centre in his constituency became the target of an apparent reprisal attack following the murder of a soldier in Woolwich.

MP for Braintree Brook Newmark met with leaders of the Al Falah prayer centre, situated on Silks Way in the town, hours after a man in possession of a knife threw a smoke device into the mosque at around 7.15pm on Tuesday evening. Last night detectives charged a 43-year-old Geoffrey Ryan from Brick Kiln Way in Braintree with two counts of possession of offensive weapons and affray.

While no-one was injured, the incident has left members of Braintree’s Muslim community shaken. And last night, Mr Newman called on the wider community to support people of the Muslim faith in the town

He said: “I was surprised that our small peaceful Muslim community in Braintree was attacked yesterday evening and wholly condemn the attack.

“I would call all those across our community to remain calm but vigilant and to raise anything suspicious with the police.

He added: “I don’t want to overreact because this attack was carried out by one individual in a community of 45,000. But, I think we should rally around a community within our community who have lived here peacefully for many years.”

Yesterday, a police officer could be seen patrolling around the Silks Way area as a precaution – and secretary of the Al Falah centre, Sikander Sleemy, was quick to praise the action of the police in apprehending the suspect.

He said: “The police acted very swiftly in making the arrest.

“We believe the attack is linked with the incidents in Woolwich and the person was enraged by what he had seen on the television. But we feel bewildered – why target us in Essex, far away from London?

“What happened in Woolwich has nothing to do with Islam. Those people may have been saying ‘Allah Akbar’ but their actions were not in the name of Islam. We think they should be given a different label like terrorist or murderers. No-one who kills innocent people should be called a Muslim.”

Mr Sleemy, whose centre serves around 150 Muslims living in the district, added: “To a certain extent we feel the media is to blame – they label these people as Islamic extremists and then it makes ordinary Muslims an easy target. “The problem is it can break down community relations that have taken years to build and we have a very good relationship with people in Braintree.”

Following the Woolwich incident, Essex Police announced it had drafted in additional patrolling resources to reassure local communities. A spokesman said extra officers would be placed at military bases, prayer centres and other potential targets. The spokesman said: “Essex Police has no information to suggest any similar attack is being planned to take place locally. Our primary objective is to ensure the continuing safety of everyone who lives, works or travels through the county.

“Essex Police is liaising with key stakeholders, partner agencies and community groups to ensure we work together to continue to keep all Essex residents safe.”

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