BIRMINGHAM, England, AP – British police said Friday they were investigating the desecration of Muslim graves in a cemetery close to the scene of recent violent clashes between black and South Asian youths.
Some 30 headstones were knocked over late Thursday and early Friday in the Muslim section of Handsworth Cemetery in Birmingham, a city in central England, area police said. They said they were treating the incident as "racially aggravated criminal damage."
The officers said they were conducting forensic tests on literature that city workers found at the cemetery but gave no further details. Sky News TV reported that notes had been left on the graves reading "Death to all Muslim rapists," referring to a 14-year-old girl”s alleged sexual assault by South Asian men.
Last month, fighting broke out between members of the Afro-Caribbean and South Asian communities in Birmingham”s Lozells district, following a meeting over the alleged sexual assault. A 23-year-old man was stabbed during the Oct. 22 fighting and police have charged three people with his death.
The meeting was partly meant to calm tensions and encourage the alleged victim to come forward. Police have yet to trace the girl or establish whether the assault occurred.
Lawmaker Khalid Mahmood, who represents the Lozells district in the House of Commons, said the cemetery desecration appeared to have been timed to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
"This was a heinous attempt to inflame tensions in the community, and I don”t think the community will rise to that bait," Mahmood said.