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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
NI's Muslims fearful after US attacks
Rescuers have been sifting through the rubble
Rescuers have been sifting through the rubble
The backlash against last week's terrorist attacks in America has affected the Muslim community in Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Islamic Centre in Wellington Park, the largest mosque in the province, has been attacked by vandals.

Local Muslims who gathered to pray discovered two windows had been smashed with bricks.

Many Muslims have also reported being verbally abused in the street following the atrocities, which are being blamed on the Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden.

Jamal Iweid, president of the Belfast Islamic Centre, said he was targeted as he walked in the city centre with his wife and son.

Prayer is even more poignant for Muslims at this time
Prayer is even more poignant for Muslims at this time

He said: "A couple of girls were walking. They just made the remark: "Bombing in New York", and they were looking at us with a strange look."

He said that on another occasion he was going to give a television interview when a few boys in their 20s made racist remarks to him.

The Muslim community in Northern Ireland comes from various backgrounds around the world, including the Middle East, the Far East, Africa and the Indian sub-continent.

But since last Tuesday's atrocities in America, attacks on local Muslims have not been isolated.

A Muslim PHD student at Queen's University in Belfast said he had noticed people treating him differently since the attacks.

He told the BBC: "Since I have been here in Northern Ireland, I have found that people here are very friendly, very nice.

'Safety'

"But since 11 September I think that they are looking at me differently, not in the same way as before."

He also said his friend, who was a PHD student in chemical engineering, had a "bad experience with a northern guy".

"He went to see the head of the school and this guy apologised for this," he said.

Recent events in America and the hardline response from a minority of people in the province, has led to a sense of anxiety within the local Muslim community.

Jamal added: "Our activities here in the Belfast Islamic Centre have been rather affected. Some people are afraid to come to the mosque because they think the mosque is a target.

"We had our Sunday school and very few children turned up. We believe that was because many parents are worried about the safety of their children."

Carmel Hanna: Condemned attacks
Carmel Hanna: Condemned attacks
The SDLP assembly member for South Belfast, Carmel Hanna, said such irrational attacks should not be tolerated.

"It think it's disgraceful and I would utterly condemn it," she said.

"I'm sure I speak for most of the residents of South Belfast, if not all. The Islamic community is part of our community and is part of the diversity of our community.

"We don't just tolerate them, we support and encourage that community here."

The increasing likelihood of American reprisals for the strikes in New York and Washington concerns many Muslims in the province.

They fear it may lead to an escalation of attacks against them.

Jamal added: "We should not, as a Muslim community, in Belfast be victimised for something that we have not done and we do not support.

"We condemn any act against any innocent civilian in the world.

"We should not be victimised just because some people did something somewhere else in the world. We have nothing to do with that."

See also:

14 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Belfast mosque attacked as fears rise
15 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe reviews aircraft safety
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