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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Mosque assault 'fuelled by MPs'
Eccles mosque
The attack took place at the mosque on Sunday night
An attack on four men at a mosque in Greater Manchester was fuelled by ministers' comments about Muslim veils, it has been claimed.

Two men were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated assault over the incident inside Eccles mosque, in Liverpool Road, Salford, on Sunday.

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, said comments from Jack Straw and Phil Woolas were to blame.

Mr Woolas had said wearing veils could provoke "fear and resentment".

The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP, who is also the Communities and Local Government Minister, was talking in support of Mr Straw, who began the debate by saying he preferred Muslim women not to wear full veils at his constituency surgeries.

Phil Woolas
I don't accept politicians' comments are to blame for this
Phil Woolas MP

Mr Shafiq, of the Manchester-based Islamic youth organisation, backed police calls for calm in the community, but said Muslims were becoming victims of violence because of politicians' comments.

He said: "This is another example of Muslims being attacked and persecuted and the responsibility lies with the politicians who have been on a feeding frenzy attacking Muslims and giving ammunition to thugs' hatred towards us.

"The responsibility for this lies with the likes of Jack Straw, Phil Woolas and others who believe it's open season on Muslims.

"People are extremely fearful now, especially the elderly people.

"People think they might be attacked on the way to the mosque or even inside while they're praying."

Appeal for calm

Mr Woolas described such attacks as "appalling".

"But I don't accept politicians' comments are to blame for this," he added.

"That would imply there haven't been attacks before which, of course, there have been."

Police were called to reports of the assault inside the mosque just before 2130 BST on Sunday.

Muslim woman wearing veil
The veil debate could be fuelling attacks, it is claimed

One victim was taken to Hope Hospital but has since been discharged. The other three men were only slightly hurt, police said.

A 37-year-old man from Eccles and a 19-year-old man from Davyhulme, Trafford, were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated assault and later bailed.

Ch Insp Geoff Wessell, of Salford CID, said: "Greater Manchester Police take crimes of this nature extremely seriously and a thorough investigation is currently under way.

"I would appeal to members of the local community in and around Eccles to remain calm, behave responsibly and let police deal with the incident and those responsible for it."

On Sunday, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, warned that the polarised debate over full veils could spark race riots in the UK.

Last week, teaching assistant Aishah Azmi lost her employment tribunal for discrimination and harassment after being suspended for refusing to remove her veil in lessons.

Labour MP Shahid Malik, Ms Azmi's local MP said the issue was becoming "deeply corrosive" and that far-right parties would benefit.


SEE ALSO
Four assaulted in mosque attack
22 Oct 06 |  Manchester
Warning over UK race riot danger
22 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
MP tells veil woman 'let it go'
20 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
Second minister enters veils row
07 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
Community pledge on mosque attack
03 Oct 06 |  Lancashire
Teenager stabbed in mosque attack
02 Oct 06 |  Lancashire

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