Hundreds join vigil after mosque burned down in north London
The crowd in Muswell Hill included children who used the centre, activists and trade unionists
More than 250 people attended a vigil last night, Thursday, by the Bravanese Community Centre which was destroyed in an apparent racist arson attack.
Many of those gathered held placards remembering the French activist Clement Meric, who died after being attacked by Nazis in Paris on Wednesday night.
The vigil was called by Unite against Fascism (UAF) after the blaze destroyed the centre in Muswell Hill in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Fire crews discovered the letters EDL, initials of the racist English Defence League, sprayed on a wall.
Although it was listed as a mosque, the community centre mainly held classes and prayer sessions for children.
“I was lucky my kids weren’t inside,” centre user Abdi told Socialist Worker. “I am from Somalia, but the centre was used by Muslims from all over the world. We used to all celebrate Eid together.”
“I am worried about my children. They don’t understand what has happened. Where are they going to go?”
Hamza and Ahmed are tutors of Arabic at the centre. Neither had heard of the EDL before they were told about the initials sprayed on the wreckage of the building.
“We’ve never been scared of racist attacks before” they told Socialist Worker.
Residents from the north London neighbourhood had laid flowers at the police line which cordoned off the burned out building.
Sam Birnie, a teacher at nearby HighgateWoodsSchool, clutched a pile of cards signed by hundreds of pupils in solidarity with centre users.
“The students just wanted to do something after we told them what had happened. They have written ‘stay strong, we are with you’. We have to stand united as a community”.
To cheers from the crowd young centre user Amina told the rally, “We stand here to be united against racism”.
Sean Vernell, a lecturer at City and IslingtonCollege, announced that the lecturer’s UCU union had pledged money to help rebuild the centre.
After the rally ended, Omar Ali, youth co-ordinator at the Bravanese Centre spoke to Socialist Worker. “Today has been amazing. But, I’m worried about the youngest users, the five year olds that used to attend the centre. They don’t understand. If we don’t act quickly they will know something’s wrong and get scared.
“We can’t have the next generation growing up in fear.”
From The Socialist Worker. Report by Annette Mackin. 07.08.13