Someone left pigs' heads outside of a infrequently used Northern Ireland church that was rumored to soon become a mosque. The incident stoked fears of racism and Islamophobia, prompting one Muslim community leader to request a meeting with the people responsible.
The heads were left at the doors of St. Luke’s Church, which is up for sale by the Catholic Church of Ireland. Given that the pigs’ heads were discovered Saturday daubed with anti-Islamic slogans, some community leaders have said it was meant as a racial hate attack against Muslims.
Raied Al-Wazzan, the local Muslim leader, told the Belfast Telegraph that he did not believe the incident was backed by the wider community. There are roughly 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, representing 4.5 percent of the total population.
— The Irish News (@irish_news) October 26, 2015
The incident happened amid an increase of anti-Muslim sentiments across the United Kingdom and Europe. Earlier this month, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that anti-Muslim hate crimes would be recorded as a separate category by police forces in England and Wales. Religious hate crimes increased by 45 percent and race hate crime by 4 percent in 2013 and 2014, according to U.K. officials. Cameron announced Oct. 13 new funding for security at religious buildings, including mosques and synagogues.
Anti-Muslim sentiments permeate other facets of daily life for people in the Europe. A recent study of employment in France showed Muslim men have faced an alarming rate of job discrimination. Males who are self-identified Muslims were four times less likely to get a job interview in France than their Catholic counterparts were, according to research by the Montaigne Institute, a Paris-based social justice group.