Police in Northern Ireland are spending valuable resources investigating an alleged hate crime after three men holding a Northern Ireland flag stood outside an Islamic prayer centre. A member of the public contacted the police, complaining that the men had taken photos.
One of the men has been identified as Paul Golding, leader of Britain First. He and two other members of the group were outside the centre, located in Conway Square in Newtownards, to shoot a short video about the rise of Islam in the United Kingdom.
Within minutes of arriving, they were confronted by “a car load” of local Muslim youths who questioned them on what they were doing there. The video shot by the group has since been uploaded to their Facebook page.
Wearing a shirt emblazoned with a large cross, Paul Golding, can be seen addressing the camera, described the building as “an enormous mosque”. He explains: “as you can see, it looks just like a normal residential front of a house, but if you look down the side you can see it goes back 300, 400 foot. It really is an enormous mosque.
“We’ve had reports from the residents here that come prayer time on Friday this whole area is absolutely filled with Muslims.
“A lot of people in Northern Ireland rest on their laurels. The first thing that they say is: “we haven’t got the same problems over here than what you’ve got in England. My response is always the same: it’s coming. It will happen, just give it time.”
Abdul Robb, from the Bangladesh Islamic Community Centre in the town has told The Irish News: “We are very friendly with the local people. They are only doing it for publicity.”
Newtownards DUP councillor Naomi Armstrong-Cotter said there had been “no issues” with the prayer centre, as the members had not been proselytising.
“There were concerns raised at the time that it would become a hub, but that has not been the case. Groups from across the area have made an effort to integrate with them and have had cooking lessons from the Bangladeshis,” she said.
“They keep themselves to themselves. There is no proselytising going on here. Local people know it is here and haven’t had any issue.
“This doesn’t fit with Newtownards. It is just about people getting on with their normal lives and that is the way it should be.”
Police Northern Ireland have confirmed that they are investigating an allegation of a hate incident in relation to the presence of the men, and asked a witness who originally contacted them to get back in touch.