Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader’s 'hand of friendship' to Muslims

Foster gets henna tattoo at Belfast Eid celebrations

By Staff Reporter

DUP Leader Arlene Foster reached out the hand of friendships to Northern Ireland's Muslims, and received a henna tattoo when she joined the community as they celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that signifies the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

The breaking of the fast celebration was held in south Belfast, and was also attended by the local DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly and Sinn Fein MLA for the constituency Mairtin O Muilleoir.

"I very much wanted to come along and celebrate Eid here today and reach out the hand of friendship because there are so many of our Muslim brothers and sisters living in Northern Ireland now," the former First Minister told the BBC.

"They are a minority community now.

"I want to say they are welcome here."

DUP leader Arlene Foster reached out the hand of friendships to Northern Ireland's Muslims when she joined the community as they celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that signifies the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

The breaking of the fast celebration was held at the former B&Q warehouse at Boucher Road in south Belfast yesterday, though the venue had been given a makeover, transforming it into a sea of colour. The event was also attended by local DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly and Sinn Fein MLA for the constituency Mairtin O Muilleoir.

Mrs Foster said she was "delighted" to receive a "lovely henna tattoo" on her hand as part of the event. One of the ways Muslim women celebrate Eid is with temporary henna tattoos which feature floral and geometric designs dyed onto the skin with a paste made from the leaves of the henna plant. During her visit, Mrs Foster also smiled as she posed for selfies.

"I very much wanted to come along and celebrate Eid here today and reach out the hand of friendship because there are so many of our Muslim brothers and sisters living in Northern Ireland now," Mrs Foster told the BBC. "They are a minority community now. I want to say they are welcome here."

Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, from the Belfast Islamic Centre, said the visit took place after the DUP asked if they could come along to the celebrations.

"I hope this is not the last visit from Arlene and she will visit us again," he added.

"Hopefully we will work together in a community level in a different project."

Speaking ahead of yesterday's event, Mrs Foster linked her visit back to a recent speech she had given on what unionism meant.

She said: "In my recent speech in London I said unionism stands for pluralism and multiculturalism. We should be inclusive and welcome all. I meant that then and I mean it now."

Four years ago former DUP leader Peter Robinson, prompted controversy over his views on Muslims. While defending firebrand preacher Pastor James McConnell, the then-First Minister said that while he wouldn't trust Muslims to give him spiritual advice, he "would have no difficulty in trusting Muslims to go down to the shop for me, to give me the right change."

Mr Robinson later issued a public apology for his remarks.

He also visited the Belfast Islamic Centre to apologise there also.

Belfast Telegraph

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