Pakistani men leave north Belfast home after racist attacks
Published 02/06/2014 | 18:22
Two Pakistani men targeted in race attacks in north Belfast have moved out of their home.
Less than 24 hours after attending an anti-racism rally in Belfast, friends Muhammad Khattak and Haroon Khan were assaulted and had their north Belfast home set upon by thugs yesterday.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Khattak blamed the atmosphere stirred up by the fallout of an anti-Islamic sermon given by Pastor James McConnell, who was later backed by First Minister Peter Robinson.
Mr Robinson's subsequent remarks in defence of the preacher led to him apologising to Muslim representatives in private last week.
In the six months since they moved into their home in Parkmount Street in the north of the city, they said they have suffered constant racial abuse.
Mr Khattak (24) said Peter Robinson's remarks about not trusting Muslim terrorists “cast suspicion over every Muslim”.
Earlier today Pastor James McConnell visited the home of the two men.
Meanwhile, Peter Robinson is now facing mounting pressure to issue a public apology for his claim that while he would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance, or those who followed Sharia law to the letter or who engaged in terrorism, he would trust them to "go down the shops" for him.
His critics characterised the shops reference as condescending and insulting.
Mr Robinson has insisted his comments have been misinterpreted.
The episode has played out at a time when Northern Ireland has witnessed an upsurge in race hate crimes. Both Mr Robinson and Mr McConnell have condemned all such attacks.
Mr McConnell, who has stood by the contents of his sermon at his church in north Belfast, has visited the home of two men who were targeted by racists twice in a matter of hours over the weekend.
A statement from Mr McConnell's Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle said he had visited the two victims.
"The pastor, who has been embroiled in a storm regarding recent comments about Islam, has told the men that he is appalled by the incident and explained that there is 'no justification for such an attack on any individual or their home whatever their religion'," it stated.
The church said the pastor had offered to help pay for the damage caused to the house.