Mosque arson attacks shock but won't divide Toowoomba

IN part five of The Chronicle's Unsolved Crime series, we update the investigation into the arson attacks on the Toowoomba mosque and the headlines they created around the world.

THE torching of the Toowoomba mosque in April this year made headlines across the country and around the world.

It was the second time in as many months the mosque, which opened last year, had been targeted.

A man wearing a hoodie was seen around the mosque during the early hours of January 23 before CCTV footage showed him attempting to burn down the mosque.

He lit several fires, including one in a plastic bin that burnt a hole through the floor, and turned the gas on, which filled the building but did not ignite.

Police said at the time the man's actions could have had a catastrophic effect had the gas ignited.

The West St mosque was targeted again in the early hours of April 17, this time with devastating effect.

A glass panel at the entrance of the mosque was smashed before the mosque was set alight.

RELATED: CCTV footage of mosque arson attack released

The blaze quickly spread throughout the building.

Firefighters managed to put out the blaze, but not before the building was significantly damaged.

No one has yet been charged with the crimes.

The arsonist caught on CCTV camera.
The arsonist caught on CCTV camera.

This was an individual act and Toowoomba does not deserve this kind of bad name in the national or international media.

Toowoomba Islamic Council president Professor Shahjahan Khan said the actions of one person were not reflective of the community's attitude towards Muslims.

He said he hoped the arsonist would be brought to justice.

"The second fire made international news and the damage was huge this time," he said.

RELATED: Muslims face huge cost to rebuild Garden City mosque

"The mosque is almost beyond repair.

"But there was a strong show of solidarity shown by the Toowoomba community; there was tremendous support.

"We do not know what the person's motive was or what drove him to do such a thing.

Professor Shahjahan Khan.
Professor Shahjahan Khan. Bev Lacey

Naturally the whole community was shocked because we pride ourselves on being multicultural and we pride ourselves on being tolerant.

"This was an individual act and Toowoomba does not deserve this kind of bad name in the national or international media."

Darling Downs District Detective Inspector Dave Isherwood said investigations into the blaze were continuing.

But he said he did not believe the arson attack was racially motivated.

RELATED: Mosque attack: Leader slams arson as 'act of evil'

"It is disappointing to see any place of worship targeted like that," he said.

"We are looking at getting external input, and by that I mean we are looking at profiling a possible offender or suspect.

"There has been some success with that in other states and we are pursuing that line of inquiry to get some expert to try and profile the person we are looking for.

An arson attack destroyed the Toowoomba mosque.
An arson attack destroyed the Toowoomba mosque. Darren England

Community outrage built and support for the mosque was overwhelming.

"One would think the person could be local but we cannot rule out anything.

"At this point in time we have received very little information from the public.

"Anyone that may have information about the two fires at the mosque, we urge them to come forward and give us that information."

RELATED: Mosque gathering reveals a city that values diversity

Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio said the city prided itself on being multicultural and inclusive of all faiths.

He said there was strong dialogue between all faiths in the city.

"Naturally the whole community was shocked because we pride ourselves on being multicultural and we pride ourselves on being tolerant," he said.

A fire in the hall which is part of the Toowoomba Mosque complex, on West Street.
A fire in the hall which is part of the Toowoomba Mosque complex, on West Street. Bev Lacey

But there was a strong show of solidarity shown by the Toowoomba community; there was tremendous support.

"Sadly in every society there are people who do these sorts of things and Toowoomba is not unique as far as that is concerned."

Toowoomba Chronicle editor-in-chief Steve Etwell said the second mosque fire was big news when it happened and once again the city was thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

But he said the response from the people of Toowoomba was heartening.

RELATED: Mosque arson attacks 'will not divide Toowoomba'

"Community outrage built and support for the mosque was overwhelming," he said.

"A series of community events showed Toowoomba's Muslims that they were welcome and appreciated."


Village to come together to mark school history

Village to come together to mark school history

Dalveen to commemorate school milestone.

Suite of fees and charges on the council chopping board

Suite of fees and charges on the council chopping board

SAVINGS of more than $93,000 combined could come back to residents

Initiative aiming to help rural medicine

Initiative aiming to help rural medicine

Universities team up with local schools.

Local Partners