POLITICIANS in Northern Ireland have hit out after Nazi flags were erected outside a mosque in West Belfast.
The flags were placed on lampposts close to the Belfast Iqraa Mosque in the Ashley Park area of Dunmurry.
The PSNI said it is treating the matter as a 'racially motivated hate crime'.
The flags, which depict the swastika and SS symbols, are believed to have been erected outside the mosque overnight on Tuesday.
'Growing trend od Islamophobia'
The Alliance party's Diversity and Migration spokesperson, Kate Nicholl, said the incident was not representative of the majority of people in Belfast.
"This act of intimidation does not represent the local community, or the city of Belfast, which is largely a friendly, inclusive, diverse and welcoming city," said the MLA for Belfast South.
"Sadly however we are seeing a growing trend of islamophobia in Northern Ireland, with the Belfast Multicultural Centre being victim to arson attacks twice in the last few years.
"My office is also seeing an increase in casework related to discrimination, intimidation and hate crimes, and we will continue to support victims in seeking answers.
"To be intimidated, harassed, or attacked simply because of who you are, where you come from, or what you believe in is a fundamental wrong."
It’s absolutely disgraceful that Nazi flags have been erected outside a mosque in the Dunmurry area of West Belfast.
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. pic.twitter.com/63ImZXL1Mx
— Paul Doherty (@PaulDoherty___) August 23, 2023
Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit condemned the incident as an attempt by the far-right to sow division in the community.
"This despicable and racially motivated action is clearly designed to intimidate members of a minority community," said the Belfast West MLA.
"Fascism has no place in our community. I send full solidarity to the members of lqraa Mosque and to all affected by this horrendous and racist act.
"The far-right is whipping up lslamophobia and fear about immigration to divide people and scapegoat migrants for the economic and social problems facing our society.
"We need to make a renewed effort to overcome racism, to defend migrants and refugees, and to uplift all communities together in the face of government neglect."
'Offensive and racist'
Sinn Féin counterpart Danny Baker echoed those views, branding the incident 'deeply concerning and disgraceful'.
"To place these deeply offensive and racist symbols outside a place of worship is a clear and outrageous attempt to create fear and intimidate people," he added.
"There is no place for this type of behaviour in our society."
In a statement, the PSNI said it was appealing for information following a report of a number of flags being erected in the Ashley Park area of Dunmurry.
"Our enquiries are at an early stage, however at this time, we are treating this report as a racially motivated hate crime," said Chief Inspector Brannigan.
Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting reference number 360 of August 23, 2023.