The North London Mosque and the case of the pig's head

North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park
North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park

On the night of 19 July, a severed pig’s head was left on the railings of the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park. It appears to have been a serious racist attack – pork is of course forbidden to Muslims – and it reportedly caused great offence to worshippers who discovered it when they arrived for early morning prayers. But some aspects of the mosque’s response to the incident have raised questions.

As I’ve reported, one of the mosque’s own former trustees, the Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, has asked the Home Secretary to investigate whether the mosque hosted the key al-Qaeda spiritual leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, and the alleged Detroit plane bomber, Farouk Abdulmutallab. The mosque fiercely denies it. The story first emerged in a post on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog on July 19 – the same day as the pig’s head incident.

The mosque seized on the timing. In a press release, it explicitly linked the pig’s head incident to the Spectator blog post and Mr Mahmood’s intervention. It also blamed Mr Mahmood for the attack in the local paper, the Islington Gazette.

Something about that rang alarm bells with me. It turns out that the blog was only published by the Spectator at 8.49pm on the night of the 19th. Do racists of the kind who would carry out such an attack obsessively read the Spectator blog? Could they have been so outraged by this relatively obscure and moderately-worded post that they immediately decided to rush out and attack the mosque? And how did they managed to get hold of a pig’s head in a few hours at 9pm?

Police sources tell me that there definitely was a pig’s head – it was recovered by their officers – and there is also some CCTV footage of two men carrying something and walking towards the premises, although it is too poor quality to show anything much. It doesn’t show anyone putting anything on the railings. As of last week, no-one has been arrested and there has been no response to their appeals for information about anyone seen with, or buying, a pig’s head.

The police do believe a crime took place – and no-one should minimise its seriousness – but they do not appear to connect it to the Mahmood criticism. Who actually placed that pig’s head there? And has the mosque been spinning, just a little?

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