Package containing a white powder and racist messages sent to Islamic centres across London and a Muslim peer in the House of Lords
Suspicious letters containing a white powdered substance and racist abuse were sent to a number of Islamic centres in London on Thursday, Middle East Eye can reveal.
Police are now probing the letters which also featured pictures of a mosque that was crossed out.
The letters were received the same day that the UK parliament was shut down and MPs evacuated after a similar package, also containing white powder and the same message, was sent to Labour Party peer for Rotherham Lord Ahmed, a practising Muslim.
Bomb squads were deployed to parts of the city with the centres briefly closed on Thursday evening after the discoveries were reported. The substance has since turned out to be chalk but a police officer at the scene of the Masjid Ayesha mosque in Tottenham, one of the affected centres, said the incident was being taken seriously as it could be a dry run for a larger attack.
Police are treating the incident as a hate or religiously motivated crime, with the UK’s North East Counter Terrorism Unit coordinating the investigation.
Authorities have not confirmed how many mosques or Muslim centres have been targeted, but sources at the scene suggested that at least six similar incidents had taken place.
“I didn’t think much about the racial slur but was genuinely fearful for the community when I saw the white powder in the letter,” Nayim Zaman, a London resident who regularly attends the Masjid Ayesha centre, told MEE.
The incidents come on the anniversary of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, in which 56 people were killed and more than 700 injured but no link to the attacks has been established as yet.
Individuals who were exposed to the powder were examined by police. No injuries or illnesses were reported.
The Noor Ul Islam trust in north-east London, which received the letter, said it immediately called the police who arrived at the scene and cordoned off the main office to ensure the safety of trustees, staff and users.
In a press statement, the trust said specialist officers attended the scene while paramedics examined those exposed and bomb specialists probed the area.
A report published by the anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophobia monitoring group Tell Mama revealed that anti-Muslim hate crimes in public spaces had risen by 326 percent in 2015.
Reports of hate crimes against Muslims, EU migrants and Brits of non-white origin have spiked since Britain voted to leave the European Union, according to the police and social media users.
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