Muslims fear far-right attacks after Nazi flags appear outside Belfast mosque

Muslims fear far-right attacks after Nazi flags appear outside Belfast mosque
3 min read
24 August, 2023
Muslim leaders in the UK are worried about an apparent hate crime outside a Belfast mosque.
Muslims in the Northern Irish town say they fear for their safety after the incident [Getty]

Nazi flags flown outside a mosque in Northern Ireland have sparked fear among the small local Muslim community of potential attacks by far-right extremists.

Three swastika flags and SS insignia were discovered on Wednesday morning close to the Iqraa Mosque in Dunmurry, West Belfast in an incident that is being treated by police as a "racially-motivated hate crime".

Jamal Iweida, imam and chairperson of the mosque, said the "disgusting" incident has sparked fear among the congregation, particularly about the safety of children.

"We feel that we have been watched by some people or some group," he told the BBC. "And we, of course, are worried about if this will lead to further actions."

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One worshipper said the flags made him think back to the 2019 Christchurch massacre, when 51 Muslims at two mosques in the New Zealand city were shot dead and 40 injured by a far-right extremist.

Social Democratic and Labour Party councillor Paul Doherty said in a social media post: "Solidarity to all those who worship at the Iqraa Mosque and School and praise to the many local residents who have quickly spoken out in anger against this."

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) condemned the incident but said such anti-Muslim hate crimes were not uncommon in Northern Ireland.

"This horrifying incident is not isolated; Muslim communities in Northern Ireland have faced multiple challenges in recent history, including arson attacks on a Mosque and Muslim-owned business and preceding acts of intimidation," the MCB said in a statement.

"It is deeply concerning, in turn, that such incidents of virulent Islamophobic hate and violence continue to occur, unhindered."

The body said a lack of effective hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland has left Muslims and other minorities vulnerable to the threat of far-right extremism.

"We implore the UK government to work towards establishing legislation that would lead to prosecutions against those responsible for hate crimes against Muslims and other minority faith and ethnic communities," said MCB secretary-general Zara Mohammed.

"It is essential that the government tackles Nazi hate and demonstrates its commitment to inclusivity, tolerance, and the safety of all its citizens."

In response to a request for comment, a UK government spokesperson said there is "no place" for hate or discrimination in Northern Ireland.

"We understand that this incident is being treated as a hate crime and the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] are investigating," the spokesperson added. "The [UK] government is committed to supporting a more reconciled, integrated society in Northern Ireland although the provision of new legislation on this matter remains the responsibility of a devolved government."

Due to a collapse in power sharing between Irish nationalists who support reunification with Ireland and British loyalists who wish to remain part of the UK, there is currently no devolved government in the province.

Note: This story was updated on 26 August 2023 to reflect a comment received from the UK government.