SEVERED pigs heads dumped at the door, windows smashed, English Defence League action, and petitions garnering over 3,000 signatures.
That has been the dramatic reaction in Solihull following a talk and presentation by a global Islamic scholar and spiritual educator which led to rumours of an ‘unauthorised mosque’ just outside the town centre.
The event in question – held on April 7 at the former Solihull Ambulance Station on Hermitage Road which is used as a community building for all to hire out – was a talk by Habib Ali Al-Jifri as part of his UK 2015 tour.
Mr Al-Jifri is heavily involved with international dialogue in religions and civilizations, including the Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University in the United States.
He is also a contributor to A Common Word Between Us and You – an Islamic-Christian dialogue – and received the annual award of the Eugen Biser Foundation in Germany for the year 2008 for his contribution to Islamic-Christian dialogue.
His talk was officially entitled ‘Building a Mosque – Building a Community’ and was part of his wider UK tour.
But other rumours, flyers and wesbites – the voracity of which we have been unable to verify – state that Mr Al-Jifri’s talk was also used ‘to celebrate the opening of the Solihull Community Hub Masjid (mosque)’.
And it is this that has sparked the fears and backlash.
Shocking pictures of pigs’ heads dumped at the door of the community centre and revelations of windows being smashed have been revealed in the wake of Mr Al-Jifri’s visit.
Meanwhile the petition – on change.org – had secured well over 3,000 signatures at the time of going to press and the English Defence League, which was already planning to march in Solihull on Saturday (April 18) in opposition of the planned Muslim cemetery in Catherine-de-Barnes – is also planning to campaign on the mosque issue.
Despite our best efforts, nobody has been able to shed any light on whether or not the talk and gathering was just a one-off, or whether the Muslim community is set to meet regulary at the centre – which would go some way to verifying reports it was used ‘to celebrate the opening of the Solihull Community Hub Masjid (mosque)’.
Meanwhile Solihull Council leader Bob Sleigh said the actions of some individuals were not ‘reflective of the borough I know’ and urged for community unity.
He added: “As the Leader of the Council, I know Solihull to be a tolerant and respectful community.
“The Council will continue to work with the owners of the building, the Police and the local community to monitor its use and to ensure that all parties have the chance to be listened to and to express their views in a constructive manner.
“We have a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime in Solihull and we wholeheartedly reject any efforts by outside groups to come into our borough and attempt to create strife, division and undermine our community’s cohesion.”
The Council is investigating to ‘establish the full facts’ surrounding the site’s useage.
West Midlands Police detectives investigating the dumped pig heads have declared the incident a hate crime.
Confirming they have forensic evidence and CCTV images showing one man leaving the heads on the doorstep before driving off in a light coloured saloon car, Chief Superintendent Alex Murray, from Solihull police station, urged the culprit to come forward ‘before we come and knock on their door’.