A man says he has been left heartbroken after the headstone of his late father was smashed to pieces.

The incident is believed to have happened over the past fortnight in the Muslim section of Pleasington cemetery.

Police said the incident was being investigated but would not clarify if it was being treated as a hate crime as yet.

Naveed Hussain says he initially thought the damage had been done by the grave collapsing but now thinks it has been intentionally done.

His father, Syed Itrat Hussain, died in November 2002. The headstone has been marked to signify it is that of a Shia Muslim.

Naveed said: “When we checked first we thought it may have collapsed but then we showed it to a local stonemason and he said this would have been done by someone. It is a very heavy object and you can see for yourself it would have taken real intent to do this.

“It appears to have been smashed with an object of some sort.

“I do not know why anyone would want to do this. My father was a hard-working simple man who did nothing but good for everyone.

“This headstone was a double memorial - one to my father who is buried there and one to my wife who died of cancer aged only 25. She was buried in Pakistan.”

Shia Muslims make up around 10 per cent of all Muslims across the world and in the UK there are Shia communities across towns and cities in the North West.

Grave etchings, like many other Muslim graves, tend to include the Kalima - a declaration of faith. In this case, it includes the word ‘Ali’ who was the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law and is revered by all Muslims but particularly amongst those of Shia Muslim faith.

There is no distinct area for Shia Muslim graves within the cemetery and people of all Muslim faiths are buried side by side.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The image on the left shows that the word 'Ali' in Arabic has been hit with some object, leading the family to believe that the damage was intentional.

The headstone was the only one damaged in that small section of the cemetery, said Naveed.

Naveed said: “The only word that appeared to be damaged is the word ‘Ali’ in Arabic.  That is why I think this as a targeted incident and someone has deliberately done this to the grave stone.

“This has happened before. 

“In 2017, the word ‘Ali’ was chiselled out on the same grave and also on two other Shia Muslim headstones. One of whom was from the early eighties, which led us to believe it was a targeted incident.

“The family were distraught they also had to replace the grave at great cost to themselves.

“At the time people didn’t want to say anything. People are fearful of repeat damage and are removing specific words and names from headstones. We should not have to do this.

“We won’t stay silent on the issue anymore.

“I was born in Blackburn and do not recognise this town with a rise in hatred and bigotry.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Naveed said it is not the first time Shia headstones have been damaged at the cemetery.

In a letter to his local MP Kate Hollern and the Home Secretary Suella Braverman he wrote: “I am distraught to inform you of hate crime in your town.

“The current attack is a complete destruction of the headstone - violation of my father's resting place. 

“This is an indication that Blackburn is not a place where people can tolerate each other or accept each others Islamic Faith

“Shias as a minority have been systematically persecuted for following their faith. This is an example of a continuation of this persecution in Blackburn.

“Islam the religion of peace now has extremists, residing in Blackburn, amongst it who will not allow the dead to rest in peace.”

Kate Hollern’s office said they had been in touch with Mr Hussain.

Police said an investigation had been launched after it was reported to them over the weekend.

A police spokesperson said: “We have received a report of criminal damage and we are investigating. 

“We take these matters extremely seriously and we are working with partners to identify those responsible and establish what the motive for the crime was.

“Anyone with information or footage which could assist our investigation is asked to call police on 101, quoting log 1611 of June 3, 2023.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council were approached for comment.