Pakistani man in hospital after being assaulted at Belfast home hours after house targeted in race attack

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BY JOHN MULGREW – belfasttelegraph.co.uk  01 JUNE 2014

Muhammad Asif Khattak had earlier called on Peter Robinson to apologise personally to all Muslims after he defended comments made by a firebrand pastor who denounced Islam as ‘satanic’

Muhammad Asif Khattak examines the damage caused to his home after a bottle was thrown through the window. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Muhammad Asif Khattak examines the damage caused to his home after a bottle was thrown through the window. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A Pakistani man has been assaulted at his north Belfast home just hours after his house was targeted in an earlier race attack.

Muhammad Asif Khattak was set upon after being subjected to a barrage of racist abuse by a group of people outside his Parkmount Street home at around 3.15pm on Sunday afternoon.

He was then chased into his home before being attacked. Another man inside was also assaulted.

A 57-year-old man and a woman, aged 18, have been arrested in connection with the hate crime.

Muhammad Asif Khattak (24) had earlier called on First Minister Peter Robinson to apologise personally to all Muslims after he defended comments made by a firebrand pastor who denounced Islam as “satanic”.

His comments came after a bottle was thrown through the window of his home in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It happened at around 2.50am.

Mr Khattak – who shares the property with another friend – said he no longer felt safe living in Belfast.

“If we go outside in the street, people will start swearing at us – what can we do?” he said.

“We are just foreigners, we don’t feel accepted.

“We are scared now and my family and friends are telling me to come back to London.”

Regarding the ongoing row surrounding Peter Robinson’s backing of comments made by Pastor James McConnell, he told the BBC the First Minister should “apologise in person to all Muslims”.

This week, Muslim representatives said they had received and accepted an apology from Peter Robinson in the wake of controversial remarks he made about members of the Islamic faith.

Mr Robinson has also always consistently condemned race attacks.

Today, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the latest race attack.

“This attack like all the others on homes in north Belfast is utterly disgraceful,” he said.

“There is no justification for any attack on an individual or their home whatever the religion, lifestyle, or ethnicity of the person concerned.”

The latest incident in the city comes just hours after some 4,000 people attended an anti-racism rally in the heart of Belfast city centre, while a similar event was also held in Londonderry.

Organisers of the Belfast rally said it was held to communicate the city’s support of its migrant and ethnic minority residents.

It was held after Alliance MLA Anna Lo said she would quit politics due to ongoing racist abuse directed at her by loyalists.

Ms Lo said had previously said she was considering leaving Northern Ireland following comments made by First Minister Peter Robinson in support of the controversial pastor who denounced Islam.

Ms Lo – who represents South Belfast and just last week ran as a candidate in the European elections – said she was “angry” at the backing given to Pastor James McConnell.

Pastor McConnell had described the Islamic faith as “Satanic” during a sermon at his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle church in Belfast last month.

He also said while there may be “good Muslims” in Britain ” I don’t trust them”.

Earlier this week Peter Robinson moved to assure members of the Islamic community by saying “no part of me would want to insult or cause distress to local Muslims”.

But he continued his defence of Pastor McConnell’s “right to freedom of speech”.

A spokesperson behind Saturday’s rally in Belfast said the attacks on migrants in Northern Ireland were “shaming”.

“A clear rise in racial prejudice is shaming. Widespread and growing Islamophobia is shaming.

“The fact that Anna Lo MLA is now considering leaving Northern Ireland due to racism – that’s shaming. Shame isn’t enough.”

Plans for an anti-racism march through the streets of Belfast have been announced.

The event, planned for next Saturday, is being described as a chance for the community to take a stand against racism.

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