A Catholic bishop has condemned recent “acts of vandalism” on properties associated with the Islamic community in Co Sligo following the killings of Michael Snee and Adan Moffitt.
Yousef Palani (22), of Markievicz Heights in Sligo, was charged on Thursday with murdering the two men and with assault causing serious harm to another man in Sligo town. Gardaí have been investigating a possible homophobic link to the crimes.
In his Easter homily, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said: “To lay the blame for recent events on a whole community, who have done nothing to deserve it, might suit the racist and sectarian agenda of some among us, but it would be totally unjustifiable. I understand that, in the past few days, there have been some acts of vandalism on properties associated with the Islamic community.
“That would be simply another form of oppression, based on people being easily identifiable as ‘different’. It would be a failure to recognise our shared humanity and the fact that Islamic people, no less than the rest of us, are created in the image of God.”
Jamshaid Sulehri, spokesman for the Sligo Leitrim Islamic Cultural Centre, said members of his community had experienced verbal and in “a few cases” more serious abuse in recent days. He said he knew of one person operating a takeaway who had a shop window smashed and he said he himself had been subjected to verbal abuse while driving in recent days.
“Now some people are afraid to go to the Islamic Centre and some are even afraid to open their shops,” he said.
Dr Sulehri said the small minority reacting with aggression towards the Islamic community were “fuelling the machine of hatred and crime”.
“I’m giving a message to all the Irish community irrespective of their religion, gender [or] race to get together, to support each other and strengthen ourselves so much so that no criminal of any type would be able to hurt us again.”
He said there had been an outpouring of sadness and devastation among Muslims following the men’s deaths, just as in every section of the community. People who committed acts of violence, irrespective of who they were, are “criminals” and should not be characterised according to their religion, he added.
Town hall vigil
Bishop Doran and Dr Sulehri attended a vigil outside Sligo Town Hall on Friday, which was organised by Sligo Pride in memory of Mr Snee and Mr Moffitt.
In his homily at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo on Saturday, Bishop Kevin Doran said that people who identify as LGBTI+ should not have to live in fear.
“If, as seems possible, they were targeted because of their sexuality, we have to say once and for all that this is unjustifiable and unacceptable,” he said. “It is something that we as Christians can never condone . People who identify as LGBTI should not have to live in fear any more than anybody else.”
In a statement at the weekend, President Michael D Higgins called on the Irish public to “address the lethargy” which is preventing members of Ireland’s LGBTQI+ community from “living the fullest expression of themselves”.
The funerals of Mr Snee and Mr Moffitt are due to take place on Monday.