Islamic centre firebombed, tagged with IS graffiti

An Islamic community centre in Melbourne’s north has been firebombed after the words “Islamic State” were scrawled on the build­ing, which had already been the sub­ject of several recent arson attacks.

The Imam Ali Islamic Centre in Fawkner was gutted by the massive blaze on Sunday [11 December] morning, which is being investigated by Victoria Po­lice’s arson and explosives squad and the Melbourne Fire Brigade.

Photographs reveal the words “Is­lamic State” in English and Arabic on the building, but it remains unclear what motivated the arson attack, which is believed to be the third incident in the past six months.

A member of the local Shiite com­munity who attends the Lawson Street prayer centre said the fire would have a devastating impact.

He refused to speculate on who might have been responsible.

“Everything is on the table and I don’t think anyone really knows.”

Mosques and Islamic community centres have been targets of re­peated attacks by far-right groups across Australia, while detectives are also expected to examine sectari­an tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Melbourne.

In January, members of the Imam Ali Islamic Centre were denied ac­cess to the prayer hall following a dispute with [the] local council. It is un­derstood the dispute stemmed from a notice issued by Moreland Council about fire safety concerns.

Another community member said the graffiti was a ruse to distract investigators.

“I can tell you it has absolutely nothing to do with Islamic State, and I hope the media and everyone else don’t allow themselves to be manipu­lated. We have a very good idea who’s behind this,” the man said.