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Suspicious white powder sent to Islamic centres across London

Packages containing white powder, racist messages sent to Islamic centres across London and to Muslim peer in House of Lords
Bomb squad investigates white power sent to London Islamic centres (Source Areeb Ullah/ @are_eb)

Suspicious letters containing a white powder and racist abuse were sent to several Islamic centres in London on Thursday, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Police are investigating the letters, which also featured drawings of a mosque that was crossed out.

The letters were received the same day that the UK parliament was shut down and MPs were evacuated after a similar package, also containing white powder and the same message, was sent to Labour Party peer for Rotherham Lord Ahmed.

Bomb squads were deployed and the centres briefly closed on Thursday evening after the discoveries were reported. The white powder turned out to be chalk, but a police officer at the scene of the Masjid Ayesha mosque in Tottenham, one of the centres, said the incident was being taken seriously because 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.

MEE can confirm however that the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, North London, was also sent a package containing white powder. 

The Police were called to the scene in Masjid Ayesha Tottenham after the Imam opened the package and felt itchy from the white powder. 

“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 envelope that was sent to several London Islamic centres (MEE/ Areeb Ullah)
The incidents came 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 yet been established.

Individuals who were exposed to the powder were examined by police. No injuries or illnesses were reported.

The Noor Ul Islam Trust in northeast London, which received one of the letters, 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 media statement, the Trust said specialist officers attended to the scene while paramedics examined those exposed and bomb specialists probed the area.

A report published by the anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamaphobia monitoring group Tell MAMA indicated that reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes in public spaces had increased by 326 percent in 2015.

Reports of hate crimes against Muslims, EU migrants and British of non-white origin have spiked further since Britain voted to leave the European Union, according to the police and social media users.