At least eight people posed in Ku Klux Klan outfits outside an Islamic prayer centre near Belfast at the weekend, in an incident that is being investigated as a hate crime.
The hooded individuals were photographed with their arms aloft and their fists clenched outside the building in Newtownards, County Down on Sunday evening. At least two were holding a wooden cross. The centre was subject to an apparent Islamophobic attack last year when a severed pig’s head was left by the entrance.
George Hamilton, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, described the incident as “disgusting” and confirmed his officers would be investigating it as a hate crime. “There’s no place for it anywhere in Northern Ireland and we will investigate this, we will gather evidence and we will report that evidence to the public prosecution service,” he said on local radio.
The incident has been widely condemned by political and religious leaders. Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, of the Islamic Centre in Belfast, said: “I understand it is Halloween, people are dressed in costume, but to go there specifically wearing that costume in front of an Islamic centre is not acceptable.”
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