ACT News

Canberra Islamic Centre hit by vandals

Expletives were sprayed on the walls, a library full of hundreds of books left trashed and kerosene was poured on the ground when vandals broke into an Islamic community centre in Monash and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage on Sunday night.

Members of the Canberra Islamic Centre discovered the centre had been damaged by intruders for the second time in the past eight days after they arrived for evening prayers about 5.30pm.

Centre president Azra Khan said they were in shock as the centre had been "completely trashed".

It's believed the vandals climbed over the metal fence that surrounds the Clive Steele Avenue property and broke in through a small window at the back of the building between 7am and 5.30pm.

"Normally we would have classes and activities throughout the day but because it’s school holidays they weren’t on," Mrs Khan said.

"Clearly they had a lot of time and wanted to cause as much damage as possible."

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The centre’s kitchen and dining hall were in disarray, with taps left running and flour and cutlery strewn all over the floor.

Several Islamic paintings were ripped from the walls, while others had holes punched in them.

Television screens which had been replaced after the recent attack were ruined, as well as a computer, printer and camera.

Bookcases inside the National Islamic Library, which is part of the centre, were pushed over and hundreds of books had been flung on the floor.

Muslim faithful who arrived for evening prayers were forced to brave the chilly air and lay their mats on the dirt as they prayed outside the building in the dark.

An ACT Policing spokeswoman said forensic officers were onsite and it was too early to speculate on who the offenders were or what their motive could have been.

Police are calling for witnesses who saw anything suspicious at the centre yesterday to come forward.

Vandals first broke into the building between 2.30 and 4pm the Friday before last.

"We’re appalled something like this could happen here," Mrs Khan said.

"I would have thought a peaceful place like Canberra shouldn’t have these things happen time and time again.

"This sort of stuff you read about in the papers and it usually happens in Sydney or Melbourne.

"A lot of people come here and it’s peaceful and so this is really sad, not to mention disruptive to the many people who come here to use it.''

The centre’s committee is working on action plan to allow activities to continue at the centre, which is used by more than 400 people each week for worship and classes.

They will also consider stepping up security at the site.

"We’re contemplating having people stay here overnight and in shifts during the day, because obviously they’re watching," Mrs Khan said.

"We’re praying outside but we’ll have to look at how we restructure our activities from now.

"We can’t leave it unsecured."

Committee member Ali Akbar estimated yesterday’s damage at a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Building works are under way for a new mosque and carpark at the site.

The centre was targeted by vandals who had smashed security cameras about eight years ago, which prompted committee members to install a metal fence around the site and spend $40,000 on security mesh for the windows.

Mrs Khan said they hadn’t had any problems with vandals for the past five years.

Any information to Crime Stoppers, 1800 333 000.

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