Muslim fury as Army uses 'mosques' on UK firing range

Muslim groups are demanding an apology from the British Army after it emerged that models of mosques are being erected on military firing ranges.

The chairman of the Bradford Council for Mosques (BMC) has called for the cut-outs to be removed immediately.

Seven replica mosques were erected on a range at Bellerby, Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire to prepare soldiers for combat in Afghanistan.

Some of the mosques have single domes and others have double domes, and appear to be targets for six firing ranges around 100 metres away, in full view of the main road.

The BMC said that the mosques were being used as a 'symbol of danger' and served to reinforce negative stereotypes of Muslims.

Ishtiaq Ahmed of the BMC said: 'We are hoping they will take immediate action to remove the structures in question and they also will be very quick to accept they have made a major blunder.

'We came to know about the structures because a passer-by saw them from the road and felt that they resembled mosques.

'We visited the site yesterday and realised that they did symbolise mosques.

'We saw soldiers on the firing range yesterday and we were very shocked and angered and also confused as to why the British Army would do something like this - it seems like a very silly thing to do.

'Anyone looking at it will think about mosques and Muslims and think about them in a negative way.'

'The shape of the structures, the green colour of the dome - symbolises an Islamic place of worship.

'What angers me very much is that we are conditioning the young British to say that mosques are a place where you are going to find danger and a place to target and that is really disturbing.'

'We will be formally writing to the Army today and will be hoping an apology is issued to the Muslim Community.

'We have been working alongside the Army in the last six months to help them recruit more soldiers from the Muslim Community.

'Relationships between the Muslim Community and the Army are very fragile at the moment, and this seems like a silly thing for the Army to do.'

Saleem Khan, the chief executive of the BMC said: 'They need to remove the structures without delay and apologise to the Muslim community.'

An MOD spokesman said the structures were 'generic Eastern buildings' and were not used as target practice.

He said the MOD had 'no intention' of causing offence and that the mosques were made to replicate the environment soldiers would face.

He added: 'Facilities at Bellerby have been upgraded in response to operational feedback from Afghanistan as it is crucial that our armed forces train at ranges that replicate the environment they will be deployed to.

'Providing the best training facilities for our armed forces ahead of deployment to operational theatres is a priority for us.

'We have no intention of offending religious sensibilities.'

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