Pig's head left at Islamic centre during 'vile' attack
A pig's head was dumped outside an Islamic centre in Newtownards and buildings were daubed with anti-Muslim graffiti yesterday in an incident being treated as a race hate crime.
The attacks happened at the Islamic centre in Greenwell Street in the Co Down town.
Muslims are forbidden to eat pork for religious reasons.
PSNI spokeswoman Chief Inspector Hazel Reid said: "At approximately 11.15pm last night it was reported to police that a pig's head had been placed on the doorstep and graffiti painted on a wall of a building.
"Shortly after 1am, it was reported that graffiti had also been painted on the wall of a building in the Castle Street area.
"Both these incidents are being treated as hate crimes.
"A police investigation is under way and we would appeal to anyone with information about either incident to contact police in Newtownards on 101."
It's understood that the anti-Muslim graffiti has now been painted over.
Strangford MP Jim Shannon slammed the attack.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "I'm disgusted. This is a despicable crime.
"Our Muslim neighbours make a valuable contribution to the Newtownards community. They are people we all know, good people whose families and businesses have been in the town over the past 40 years. It's hard to understand the mind of people who would commit such a hate crime."
Mr Shannon - who supported the Muslim community's planning application to create the Islamic centre - added: "The criminals who did this are not representative of the people of Newtownards."
Amnesty International last night condemned the incident. Spokesman Patrick Corrigan said: "Our solidarity goes to the local Muslim community, who were the targets of this vile attack.
"In recent years this Islamic centre has been targeted by far Right activists.
"The same group held an anti-Muslim protest outside Belfast City Hall as recently as this month, supported by a local councillor.
"When politicians fuel this racist thinking, we should not be surprised when some people feel they can act on their prejudices.
"Amnesty calls on Northern Ireland's political representatives to do all in their power to stand against hate and to ensure all minority communities feel welcome and able to live free from fear."
Newtownards DUP councillor Stephen McIlveen said last night that the Muslim community in the town had been shocked by the incident.
He had visited the Islamic centre and spoken to his Muslim constituents there.
"It's a disgrace that this has happened," he said.
"I want to offer all the support and help I can to our Muslim neighbours.
"While there is shock and surprise at this incident, people are heartened by the amount of support they have received from the local community.
"Anyone who saw anything, or has any information about the incident, should contact the police immediately.
"This kind of behaviour has to be stamped out."