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UK: Party leaders pledge £1.1m to rebuild Islamic centre destroyed in arson attack

Barnet and Whetstone Press
By Daniel O’Brien
Friday, May 9, 2014

MEMBERS of the Somali Bravanese community are set to be handed a new home after the leaders of Barnet’s main political parties pledged more than £1million to rebuild their community centre, which was destroyed in an arson attack 11 months ago.

Speaking tonight at a ‘North London Citizens Assembly’ meeting at Finchley Reform Synagogue in Fallow Court Avenue, West Finchley, Conservative council leader Richard Cornelius said that if re-elected in this month’s local elections, his party would put forward £1.1million to help build a new home for the Islamic Somali Bravanese community. Opposition leader Alison Moore made the same commitment should Labour take power on May 22.

The Bravanese Centre in Coppetts Road, Muswell Hill, which housed the Bravanese Welfare Association, was burnt down in the early hours of June 5. Officers investigating the scene discovered the letters “EDL” (the initials of the far-right anti-Islam group, the English Defence League) had been sprayed on the side of the centre.

The charity, which provides community support and education to the Bravanese community, has been forced to use temporary offices of East Finchley Library, in High Road, while carrying out lessons on evenings and weekends in Whetstone High Road. It was also given temporary use of the Finchley Reform Synagogue to celebrate Eid in the weeks after the fire.

Tonight’s event was organised by the newly formed multi-faith group, North London Citizens, which includes the BWA, as well as several synagogues and local schools, and is part of social movement Citizens UK.

During the meeting, Mr Cornelius and Ms Moore were asked to make a series of pledges ahead of the local elections.

Among those was a request to commit £1.1million to the rebuilding of the centre, as well as to establish a firm works timetable within seven weeks of the local election.

While neither councillor was willing to commit to a schedule both promised to put up the money when required, and to push for a time frame to be established as soon as possible.

Ms Moore said: “I know how important that centre is to the work you do and the identity you have as a community. At the moment you are in limbo and I think we need to work together to put that to an end,”

Mr Cornelius agreed he would stump up the funds, but added: “There has to be an opportunity for other people to use the building when it is not in use by the Bravanese community, but we do agree that it does need to be done.”

At the same meeting Barnet Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher said that the attack on the centre was still under investigation, and that he was “optimistic” the case would be solved.

Immediately following the attack, hundreds of people attended a vigil to show their support for the Bravanese people. Paying tribute to the reaction of the community, Chief Supt Usher said: “Whoever set that fire did so in the end to separate and create rivalries and potentially ferment violence.

“If that was their intention then what a spectacular own goal that was. The amazing way the Jewish, Muslim and secular communities came together is something we should be proud of.”

Source: Barnet and Whetstone Press


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