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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Race attacks 'rise' in Northern Ireland
Craigavon's imam and his wife and two children
Craigavon's imam and his family have left Northern Ireland
Ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland are more than twice as likely to face a racist incident than those in England or Wales, according to a BBC News investigation.

Police said 226 racial incidents were reported between April 2002 and April 2003, with 185 such attacks in the previous year.

It centres on Craigavon, near Portadown, in County Armagh, where Muslims have decided to delay building the province's first mosque, even though they have won planning permission.

Earlier this year, the Muslim imam and his wife and two children left Northern Ireland for a secret location, after eight men wielding baseball bats smashed up their home.

Days earlier, the housing estate they lived on had been leafleted by the extreme right-wing White Nationalist Party.

And the imam's wife, Eftaima Naijair, told BBC News their car had been sabotaged, causing a wheel to come off while they were driving on the motorway with their children.

I decided we would have to move for our own safety
Fiona Patel

"In Northern Ireland you feel that you are not a human being," she added.

Eight other families have also fled the borough after suffering racial abuse.

Fiona Patel told BBC News that she and her daughter Shanice had had stones thrown at their windows and racial abuse shouted at them.

"We had the police out in one week four times," she added.

"I decided we would have to move for our own safety."

Christianity is the enemy of the Muslim
Fred Crowe
Ulster Unionist councillor

Ulster Unionist Party councillor Fred Crowe said he had opposed the mosque because the land was not suitable and there was the issue of sewerage facilities.

"I fought this problem for the people on planning issues. I refuse to take anything to do with racism," he said.

But the former Craigavon mayor told BBC News that Muslims were "out to wipe out Christianity".

"Christianity is the enemy of the Muslim," he added.

Dr Zamir Huda of the Craigavon Muslim Community said they did not want to build a mosque against the wishes of local people.

"It's a disappointment," he added.
Eight men wielding baseball bats smashed up the imam's home
Eight men wielding baseball bats smashed up the imam's home

In June 2003, police in south Belfast stepped up security for minority groups in the area following pipe bomb attacks on two homes.

Earlier this year, Northern Ireland's Equality Commission noted that racist attacks in Northern Ireland were running at a higher level than in England and Wales.

They were running at 16.4 per 1,000 of the minority ethnic population compared to 12.6 in England and Wales, said the commission.

It pointed to attacks on the homes of Filipino nurses in Ballymena, County Antrim and offensive leaflets over building plans for a mosque in Portadown, County Armagh.

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21 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland
Forum tackles race relations
24 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
Race attack family to leave NI
10 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
Attack motive investigated
30 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland
NI 'needs to tackle racism'
21 Mar 03  |  Northern Ireland

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