22 June 2018

South Africa: Smell of Smoke Still Lingers Inside Verulam Mosque

The heavy smell of smoke still lingers inside the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam more than a month after it was petrol bombed in a deadly attack in May.

One man, Abbas Essop, and two others were attacked by three knife-wielding men during the incident at the Shia mosque. Essop later died, while Moulana Ali Nchiyane and caretaker Mohammed Ali survived.

The mosque was also petrol bombed.

Three days later, on May 13, an explosive device was discovered next to the pulpit.

When News24 visited the mosque, situated in Ottawa, Verulam, north of Durban, contractors were busy with renovations inside and outside.

Smoke damage could be seen on some of the walls on the ground floor while the ceiling was also affected.

But renovations are not the only changes to the mosque, says its chairperson and founder Azad Seedat.

They have since also upped their security with the installation of CCTV cameras and an electric gate.

"We have put security measures in place. We haven't hired any security personnel because we have our own internal security," he said.

Seedat said police had "assured" them that they were busy with the investigations in the case.

"We are not putting them under any pressure because we believe that we should be patient if we want a thorough investigation to be done.

"The police and the Hawks are doing a fantastic job and if we put pressure on them, they won't do their work properly. Let them do their job and we will all be happy at the end," he said.

All the mosque's activities had resumed during the month of Ramadan.

"We performed our Eid prayers on the roof garden. We have resumed all our normal activities at the mosque," said Seedat.

He said they were however, still using classrooms for most activities because of the renovations.

Seedat said the damage caused by the fire as a result of the petrol bomb was estimated to amount to more than R1m.

He said "nothing unusual" has happened since the last attack at the mosque.

Ali Razvi, a worshipper who was at the mosque when News24 arrived, said they would not stop praying just because of the attack.

"This is the house of Allah. Nobody will stop us. We are not scared of anyone except Allah," Razvi said.

Asked if they were not scared that there might be another attack during the prayers, he said: "No, we were not scared at all. We had our prayers and other activities here. People came here. We are continuing with our activities calmly and peacefully."

Razvi said the mosque was opened to everyone from every religion "as long as they want to pray".

He said one incident cannot stop them from going to the mosque to pray.

"Crime happens everywhere. Even the mosque in Cape Town was attacked, but that doesn't mean they have to abandon their place of worship. The attack that happened here could have happened at any church regardless of the religion they follow," he said.

Last week, there was an attack on worshippers at a mosque in Malmesbury in the Western Cape. Two people were stabbed and killed, while the attacker was shot dead by police.

Police said no link had been established between the incident in Verulam and the one in Malmesbury.

A neighbour who lives near the Verulam mosque and who asked not to be named, said he wasn't afraid to live near the mosque because he believed the attack "was just a once-off thing".

"We were evacuated on the night a bomb was found at the mosque. Since then, nothing suspicious has happened. They do their prayers and their activities peacefully at the mosque and I don't see anything wrong with that," he said.

Meanwhile, Seedat said that they would hold a ceremony at the mosque over the weekend to mark 40 days since Essop's death.

Source: News24

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