Police probe community centre fire

The aftermath of the arson attack

Muswell Hill Synagogue in north London has won an award from an Islamic organisation for the help it gave to a small Muslim group whose community centre was destroyed in an arson attack last year, writes Leon Symons.

The Islamic Society of Britain has recognised the synagogue’s efforts with the community cohesion award, part of its “Celebrating Excellence” initiative.

The awards, divided into 12 categories and presented for the first time this year, mark the work of individuals and organisations across the country who have striven to achieve cohesion and partnerships in challenging circumstances and created harmony, debate and raised awareness of critical issues in Britain.

In June last year, arsonists set light to the Somali Bravanese Al-Rahma community centre in Coppetts Road, Muswell Hill, and it burnt to the ground. 

The letters “EDL” – standing for English Defence League – had been sprayed on the side of the building. At the time, it was feared the attack might have been a reprisal for the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich two weeks earlier.

The hall was used by the Bravanese mainly as an after-school centre for their children. It was empty when the fire started.

Rabbi David Mason, the synagogue’s minister, stepped in swiftly to offer the Bravanese help and support. Subsequently he led a solidarity march with other faith leaders through Muswell Hill.

The relationship between the two communities grew and culminated in representatives of the Bravanese being welcomed into the synagogue in April.

The ISB said that an anonymous nomination was received for Muswell Hill which described the synagogue’s response to the Bravanese.

Rabbi Mason said: “This award means a great deal to our synagogue. We are a community that puts a great deal of effort into our local inter-faith relations and I am very proud of the connection we have built up with the local Bravanese community over the last year. This award is most special, particularly after the tensions we experienced due to events in the Middle East.”

The award is being presented on Saturday by an ISB representative during the synagogue’s annual civic service, which will be attended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Haringay and local MPs Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) and David Lammy (Tottenham), among other dignitaries. Representatives of the Bravanese community and the Wightman Road Mosque in Hornsey will also be present.