Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Islamic Centre receives far-right racist threats

Belfast Islamic Centre, which received a racist letter this week

Members of a south Belfast Islamic community centre are in fear of being attacked after it was targeted by a threatening racist letter from a loyalist far-right organisation this week.

The Belfast Islamic Centre on Wellington Park was among organisations, businesses and politicians in south Belfast that have received racist threats over the last few days.

Hong Kong-born South Belfast MLA Anna Lo, the only member of the Northern Ireland Assembly who is from an ethnic minority background, received a visit by police on Monday evening to warn her of a threat to attack her home.

Ms Lo, who has lived in Belfast for nearly 35 years, said she also knew of threatening letters sent to Polish and Islamic centres in Belfast by loyalist far-right groups threatening to bomb at least one of the premises.

The Islamic Centre, established in 1978 by a group of Muslims from the local community, received a threatening letter on Monday claiming to be from a loyalist far-right organisation stating: “Keep Northern Ireland for white British people.”

Muhammad al-Qaryooti, the centre's director, said the letter was extremely racist.

“The letter said they had ‘no sympathy for foreigners — get out of the Queen's country’,” said Mr al-Qaryooti.

He said that people in the centre, which acts as a place of worship and a community and advice centre, feel frightened and upset about the threats.

“People feel frightened. We tried not to tell people but we have informed the police,” he said.

“People feel very upset and angry about this behaviour. We feel this group is trying to hijack the issues of immigration and race for their own propaganda.

“We want to tell people that we are here, we are Northern Irish and Irish, we have lived here for years and we have been born here — we have integrated. The Muslim people are part of this society.

“We ask MPs to take strong action to help prosecute any members of these groups.”

Mr al-Qaryooti added that the centre receives racist letters from time-to-time but the fact that this letter came from this organisation is alarming.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “We do not discuss the security of individuals. However, if we receive information that a person's life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly.”

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