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Politicians united in disgust at attack on city's Islamic Centre

By Luke Barnes

Published 07/09/2016

The vandalised door of the Islamic Centre in Belfast
The vandalised door of the Islamic Centre in Belfast

The chairman of the Belfast Islamic Centre has thanked the community for its support following a paint attack on the building.

Dr Saleem Tareen said he knew that those behind the hate attack didn't represent the majority in Northern Ireland.

"The only way we can deal with this is through communication. We have to carry on with life - these sort of things are saddening but they don't stop you from doing the things you do," he said.

"I think the different kind of events happening worldwide affect us but you don't have to be Muslim to be the target of hate crime. Jews get it. Indians get it. It's a lack of understanding."

Dr Tareen stressed that the doors of the Islamic Centre would remain open to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

"We're all different people from all different countries and walks of life - doctors, pharmacists, architects, businessmen and taxi drivers."

Vandals smeared the front door of the centre at Wellington Park with red paint on Monday night.

Police said they were treating it as a hate crime.

Worshippers at the centre said they were disappointed by the attack.

Hussein Ibrahim, who is studying a PhD in microbiology in Belfast, said that while he hadn't received any racial abuse in Belfast, the attack worried him.

He said: "It's the place of worship, people come here to pray. If something like this could happen here it could happen again."

Abdul Atif, a Belfast resident for 20 years, was more nonchalant about the attack.

He said: "There are stupid people all over and things like this happen - if not to us then someone else. All it takes is a few drinks and people can do anything."

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said that the centre was "at the heart" of the community's diversity.

She said: "Those behind this attack represent intolerance and prejudice.

"The people of Belfast have rejected their like before and will rally around the Islamic Centre to support its faith community."

UUP MLA Jim Rodgers said there should be "zero tolerance" for the acts of intimidation against the Islamic community.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw labelled the vandalism "disgusting" and added that she "utterly condemned" the culprits.

The PSNI urged anyone with information about the attack to contact them on 101 and quote reference number 235.

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