Muslims demand apology over shooting range mosques
LONDON (Reuters) - A group of British Muslims demanded an apology from the Ministry of Defence on Thursday after it said replica mosques were being used on a military firing range in northern England.
The Bradford Council for Mosques (BCM), an umbrella organisation for faith schools and mosques in the area, called for the green-domed structures to be taken down and wanted assurance they would not be used again.
"The structures do symbolise mosques," BCM spokesman Ishtiaq Ahmed told Reuters.
"Mosques are our places of worship, they are places of peace, and for anyone to suggest that they are potential zones of danger and should be shot at is really not acceptable."
The one-dimensional hardboard structures in Catterick, North Yorkshire, are not used as direct targets, but are intended to provide a more "realistic" background for soldiers training ahead of deployment in Afghanistan, a military source said.
Other "generic eastern silhouettes" used include palm trees and irrigation ditches.
But the BCM's Ahmed said the site did not bear any resemblance to what British forces were experiencing in Afghanistan.
"If they had a replica of a street or a village in Afghanistan with a mosque as a kind of location point we would understand that, but these are simply six or seven structures in the direct shooting line which anyone looking at would come to the obvious conclusion that they are mosques."
About 9,500 British troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting an increasingly bloody Taliban insurgency.
The Ministry of Defence apologised for any offence, saying it was never the intention for the structures to look like or replicate mosques.
"We are seeking a meeting with representatives from the Muslim community to hear their concerns in order to discuss the way forward," a spokesman said in a statement.
(Editing by Steve Addison)
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