UK

Islamic School Fire At Darul Uloom Investigated By Police

09/06/2013 12:53 BST | Updated 09/06/2013 20:29 BST
PA
Filoe photo dated 18/11/2011 of a generic view of police tape at a crime scene. The Home Secretary is expected to unveil a number of measures to boost trust in the police today that will see officers with a history of sexual harassment or financial misconduct barred from becoming chief constables.

The principal of an Islamic school that was the victim of a fire started in "suspicious" circumstances has urged the community to "stay firm".

Detectives are investigating the fire and are working to establish if it was started deliberately.

Almost 130 pupils and staff were evacuated from the Darul Uloom Islamic School in Chislehurst, south-east London, last night with teachers reacting quickly and extinguishing the flames.

Only minor damage was caused to the school but two boys suffered from smoke inhalation though they were not taken to hospital.

School principal Mustafa Musa said intruders started the fire in the school teaching area but did not say how the fire was started or if the culprits broke into the building.

He said: "We would like to show our appreciation to the police, fire and ambulance services and well-wishers who have responded and offered support in this time of need.

"The parents should rest assured that the students are safe and have been well looked after.

"The academic department of the school was set alight just before midnight by intruders.

"Initially the staff extinguished the fire and evacuated the students to safety.

"The fire and ambulance services responded rapidly and ensured no one was seriously injured.

"Two boys suffered smoke inhalation injuries but thank God they are recovering.

"We are part of the British community and are deeply saddened by the events that have taken place.

"We urge the community to stay firm and united and bring the people responsible to justice.

"The community at large have to come together for a safe and peaceful life in Britain."

Questions were asked about the motive after the Metropolitan Police said the fire was suspicious.

It happened only days after an Islamic centre in London's Muswell Hill was burnt to the ground amid allegations it was a racist attack.

The building was daubed with the letters ''EDL'', apparently referencing the English Defence League.

That blaze prompted fears that the fire may have been a reprisal attack in the wake of the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

On Sunday night, Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "These are difficult times for London's communities.

"The Met is now investigating suspicious fires at two locations within the Islamic community which have happened in the past few days. Fortunately no one has been hurt, but we know that fires can often prove fatal.

"So I want to reassure people that we are using our full range of policing tactics to protect sites that might be vulnerable.

"In all boroughs across London, there is an increased police presence around locations that might be at risk.

"We will maintain a 24/7 guard of uniformed officers at sites we consider to be at greatest risk.

"Detectives are working tirelessly to establish whether these fires were started deliberately, and if so, to catch those responsible.

"We should not allow the murder of Lee Rigby to come between Londoners.

"The unified response we have seen to his death across all communities will triumph over those who seek to divide us."

Detective Chief Superintendent Steph Roberts, Bromley borough commander, appealed for calm and urged people not to speculate on the cause of the school fire.

She said: "The fire is being treated as suspicious.

"Police enquiries continue to establish the full circumstances.

"We would ask members of the public to remain calm and not to speculate as to the cause of the fire. A full police investigation is ongoing.

"Anyone with information that may assist the investigation should call police on 101 or, to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

"There is an increased police presence around potentially vulnerable locations in the borough of Bromley and across London, including additional patrols to provide reassurance and deter crime."

London Fire Brigade said the fire was under control in less than an hour after being called.

The £3,000-a-year boarding school was established in 1988 with the purpose of producing "great scholars and Huffaz (people who have memorised the Koran) to preserve and transmit the eternal message of Allah".

Its website says: "The institution helps children to explore and develop their Islamic identity as a natural part of their mental, emotional and personal development.

"The school aims to prepare Muslim students to be good Muslims and responsible citizens; to embed in the student a sense of discipline; to enable them to grow up to become upright, respectable and worthy citizens of their respective countries."

The school was built in 1974 and comprises 130 boarding rooms in addition to classrooms, dining hall, assembly hall, prayer hall, gym, playing fields and car parking with 100 spaces, over a 10 acre site.

An extension was built in 2007 consisting of 18 classrooms, a science laboratory, a prayer hall and wudhu (ablution) facilities.