Manchester Arena Inquiry: Didsbury Mosque receives demolition and deportation threats
A mosque in Manchester has received a wave of violent threats, with some calling for its "demolition" and the "deportation" of its followers, after an inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena attack named the place of worship in its report.
Published on Thursday, the Manchester Arena Inquiry concluded that the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque, had played no part in the radicalisation of bomber Salman Abedi or his brother, Hashem Abedi.
But it said that the chair of the mosque had “tended to downplay the strength of the links between the Abedi family and Didsbury Mosque in the years leading up to the attack”.
Twenty-two people were killed when Abedi, a 22-year-old British-Libyan man, detonated a bomb in a rucksack, also killing himself.
Sir John Saunders, the chair of the inquiry, said the mosque had displayed "weak leadership" in failing to address what an expert witness to the inquiry described as a "very toxic political environment" fuelled by conflict and unrest in Libya.
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“On any view, in the years leading up to the attack, the leadership of the mosque did not pay sufficient attention to what went on at its premises and did not have policies in place that were robust enough to prevent the politicisation of its premises,” said Saunders.
Since the report's release, the Manchester Islamic Centre has been on alert, with police patrolling the area to protect the community from any possible attack.
Tracey Pook, the Didsbury Mosque's community engagement coordinator, has been monitoring the number of threats the centre has received and said they had been growing by the hour.
"Having compiled the threats and attacks, I've seen people say the mosque should be demolished, that extremists live here, and that the centre is somehow responsible for the murder of children," Pook told Middle East Eye.
"I have been coming to the mosque for the last 20 years. It's where I became a Muslim, and the community here has been nothing but friendly. These comments and threats are hurtful because what happened [in the Manchester Arena] is not what Islam is about," she added.
"The mosque has been at the heart of the community since 1967 and helped them when they needed it the most - like Covid."
Pook said the most alarming comments she had seen online referenced far-right activist Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, claiming "he was right" when he attempted to confront leaders from the mosque in 2017.
Fawzi Haffar, Manchester Islamic Centre’s chair of trustees, said the mosque had previously had to deal with the attention of the far right due to the media coverage it received in the aftermath of the bombing.
The mosque was also the target of an arson attack in September 2021. Haffar said the mosque had consulted with local police before the report’s release and had put security arrangements in place because of concerns that far-right activists could again target it.
“We have done risk assessments, we have done fire training, we have checked our CCTV is in order. We have taken every measure we can,” he said.
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