LONDON // British police and religious leaders yesterday sought to address fears of communal tensions after a suspected bomb attack against a mosque in the town of Tipton, outside Birmingham.
They appealed for calm at a news conference at the Kanz Ul Iman mosque, behind which an explosion on Friday scattered nails and debris.
The blast highlights concerns about anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK that spiked after the brutal murder of a British soldier on a London street in May by two suspects who shouted Islamic slogans after killing him.
Ghulam Rasool, a local imam, said the Tipton mosque attack should not undermine interfaith relations.
"The people of Tipton and Sandwell will not succumb to disharmony," he said, referring to a neighbouring town.
Mark Robinson, chief superintendent of the West Midlands Police, who are investigating the blast they believe to be an act of terror, asked residents to remain patient while police did their work. He said members of different faiths had been quick to show solidarity with members of the mosque and were "determined" to go about their business as usual.
The board of trustees of the Kanz Ul Iman mosque also issued a statement calling for calm and unity.
"We have worked hard to build community relations and will not allow this incident to divide us or undermine cohesion in the borough."
No one was hurt in Friday's explosion. At peak hours, the mosque is visited hundreds of local Muslims, but the blast happened an hour before prayers and the area was largely empty.
A forensics team from the West Midlands Police was still on the scene yesterday and the area remained cordoned off.
Last month, about 150 people were evacuated in Caldmore, also in the West Midlands, when an explosive device was found near a mosque.
Police say they have no evidence of a direct link between the two.
That investigation is continuing, as is another, into the murder in April of a 75-year-old man in Birmingham who was on his way home from prayers.
Mohammad Salem was only buried yesterday. The funeral was delayed because authorities conducted two post-mortem examinations. There are no suspects so far.
A police spokeswoman yesterday said police did not believe the incidents were related.
Friday's blast came within the hour of the funeral of Lee Rigby, the British soldier who was hacked to death in Woolwich.
The two men charged with his murder were filmed at the time citing the killing of Muslims by the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan as the justification for their actions.
The killing sparked a significant spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in Britain that seemed to have reached a peak in June.
Tipton's Muslim community has been long established, but the town lies in an area of high unemployment where the far-right National Front party has consistently secured a significant percentage of the vote in local elections.
Three Muslim men from the town were captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and became three of nine Britons in detention at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. They were released without charge in 2004.