You may have heard about the Imam al-Ridha mosque in Brussels which was burnt last month by a Salafi terrorist. The arson attack led to the tragic death of the imam, Sheikh Abdullah Dadou, a father-of-four from Morocco.
A delegation from London travelled to Brussels to pay their respects to his family and the community. We also visited the crime scene – a House of God.
As we entered the desecrated mosque we saw, and smelt, destruction everywhere. The names of the Shia Imams had turned to ashes. The pulpit, mihrab and prayer mats were ruined. Even the name of Allah, delicately carved in wood and set above the mihrab, was half-destroyed. Burnt Qurans were scattered on the floor.
If this crime was committed by a non-Muslim in the Middle East there would have been public outrage. It was committed by a “Muslim” in Europe and the silence is deafening.
It was the terrorist’s ignorance which led to only one death. It could have been much worse. He entered with “Maghrib” prayers with the intention of killing the dozens of worshippers who would have been there but he didn’t realise that Shia Muslims pray Maghrib 15 minutes after the Sunni time. If he knew this, many more could have died.
This particular mosque in Brussels has received threats from Salafi extremists since 2007 and even received police protection as a result. However, the Saudis have recently stepped up their propaganda campaigns against the Shia and this tragic event is a by-product of this hateful project. A few days after the attack the remaining staff were threatened to leave and Belgian security officials are investigating what seems like a wider network of extremists operating in Brussels.
It seems sectarianism in the Middle East has shown its ugly face even in Europe and I don’t think it will be the last incident.
Just before he poured petrol and set it alight, Rashid, the terrorist who was also from Morocco, shouted “I will kill you! I will burn you!”
He was detained by mosque staff until the police arrived and arrested him. Unfortunately, Sheikh Dadou had already suffocated to death by the time paramedics arrived.
The local community is understandably devastated and everyone I spoke to says the Sheikh is “irreplaceable” – However, no one is calling for revenge. No one is calling for blood. The condemnation letter issued by the mosque on Tuesday correctly pointed out that the motive behind this heinous crime was to stoke the sectarian flames and they stressed the importance of not falling into this trap.
I didn’t have the courage to speak to the Sheikh’s 4-year-old son, Jafar, as I saw him playing with his car toys blissfully unaware of the evil that has rocked his world. He was running around and laughing even as his mother was quietly crying as we tried to console her.
Soon, this child will be asking for his father and someone is going to have to explain to him the nature of the blind hatred which took him away from them.