There have been over 300 hate crimes against Muslims in Belfast over the past five years, new research has shown.
The research was carried out by the Institute for Conflict Research and was commissioned by Belfast City Council.
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said the research was “timely” following the killing of 50 people as they prayed at Mosques in New Zealand on March 15.
BBC News NI reported that a final version of the report has not yet been approved by Belfast City Council.
The initial findings of the research have, however, been shared with members of the council’s Shared City Partnership.
Mr Attwood said the research found, through analysis of PSNI data, that there have been at least 320 recorded hate crimes committed against people from a Muslim background over the past five years.
It also found, according to the SDLP councillor, that most extensive form of discriminatory treatment involved forms of verbal abuse.
Women, particularly those wearing forms of dress that identified them as Muslim, were often an easy target for expressions of verbal hostility.
It also found that some people have made newcomers the scapegoats for diminished opportunity, while some perceive these newly arrived as a security threat.
Mr Attwood said: “This is a very important and timely research, on the experiences of the Muslim community in Belfast, a week after the appalling massacre in New Zealand of 50 people at two mosques by a gunman espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hatred. The research worryingly reveals that there has been 320 hate crimes in the last five years. It is appalling that people from a Muslim background have faced racist abuse, discrimination and hostility in the street.”
He continued: “Last week, the people of New Zealand and the world were united in condemnation and solidarity with the wider Islamic community. The powerful and courageous leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an example to all of us to stand firm against racism and xenophobia.
“Just as she has said, we here in Belfast must represent diversity, kindness, compassion too. We must provide a home for all those who share our values. We must all provide refuge for those who need it.”
He added: “It is essential that that the Council now vigorously implements the series of recommendations from the research a campaign including #StandByMe project to demonstrate support for the Muslim community, ensure there is effective recording of hate against people with a Muslim background and that effective action is taken against racist abuse and discrimination.”