Sweden: Mosque attacked

A fire was set to a mosque in Strömsund (Jämtland) Thursday night.  The mosque, which is located in the basement of an apartment block, serves the local Muslims, mostly immigrants and refugees from Uzbekistan.

The fire burned along the wall under the window.  The police found burned cartons inside and did not find any natural causes for the fire, says Per Hanspik, police forensic investigator.

Police are taking the case very seriously and have given it top priority.  Thomas Gutke, heading the investigation, doesn't rule out hate crime, but says that it's currently classified as attempted arson.  It might be that the people who've done this can't even spell hate, according to Gutke.

If the mosque would have been in a separate building or had been clearly marked, the arson would have been classified as a hate crime.

After the incident, many of the mosque members were sad, angry and concerned.  Several stood outside the mosque, looking at the investigation and burned carpets outside.

Anders Fabricius, the municipality refugee coordinator, says that the mosque has a great symbolic value and that the incident causes fear of being subjected to persecution after fleeing it in their homeland.

Daniel Egmberdsson from Uzbekistan is involved in the mosque and was sad to hear of the fire.  He says they live in the first floor and his wife and children are home while he works.  He's concerned one day somebody will come and harm them.

This is not the first time immigrants and refugees in the Strömsund have been victims of crime.  According to ÖP's sources, much of the recent graffiti and threats have been directed against the Uzbeks.

Egmberdsson says that until now it has been peaceful and quiet in Sweden and in Strömsund.

In the past two years the municipality has taken in 160 refugees, most of them from Uzbekistan and Chechnya.  In the past politicians and municipality officials have received racist mails and refugee families have been threatened.

Fabricius wants to play down the latest incident as racist and says that it's difficult to know whether it was racist or not.

For the Friday prayers the municipality set up a temporary mosque. 


On Friday evening several people tried breaking in into the temporary mosque, set up after the fire.  Several mosque members were inside at the time.

At 23:10pm police received a report that several people were involved in a fight in central Strömsund. When they arrived at the scene they found about 50 people outside the temporary mosque.

Anders Fabricius was called up and says that when he arrived there were many youth outside on the street and a gang of intoxicated youth tried to force the doors to the mosque. 

According to police officer Magnus Hamstig the police had received reports of assault, illegal threats, vandalism and illegal entry.  One 25 year old reported he was beaten, two windows were broken and two people had entered the mosque.  they have identified four people as suspects.  The fight had moved from another part of town to the mosque and it was there that the vandalism and illegal entry occurred.

Hamstig says that there is no connection between the fire in the mosque and the fight, and there is no indication that the same people are responsible for both.  He says he thinks these are two separate incidents.

Sources: ÖP 1, 2, 3; Radio Sweden (Swedish)

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