NI ‘must stand up against racism’ – Lo

Posted By: June 02, 2014

Alliance MLA Anna Lo has told an anti-racism rally in Belfast that Northern Ireland
must stand up against sectarianism and racism, as she vowed to stay in the region.

Ulster TV. Saturday,  May 31,  2014

She addressed a crowd of over 4,000 people outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday
afternoon, days after she announced that she plans to quit Northern Ireland politics
because she is "fed up with tribal politics".

The South Belfast MLA does not intend to stand for re-election in 2016.

Ms Lo, who has lived in Northern Ireland for 40 years, had said she was thinking
about leaving the region because she doesn't feel safe amid a recent upsurge of hate
attacks - including attacks on her personally.

At the rally on Saturday, the politician received a rapturous applause from a crowd
chanting her name.

"I am so pleased and so touched to see so many of you come out - not just in support
of me obviously - but in support of all our ethnic minorities here in Northern

She told the crowd: "I'm not going to go away."

Ms Lo told the crowd that she had been inundated with messages of support.

"My office and home now are just like a florist's shop," she said.

"It's not about me - it's about all of us - we must stand up - stand up against
sectarianism and racism."

She said that ethnic minorities needed to feel safe in their homes and feel safe
walking down the street.

Meanwhile, one of the speakers at the rally has called for the First Minister to
make a public apology over recent comments he made about the Islamic faith.

Mohammed Samaana has worked as a staff nurse at the Ulster Hospital for over a
decade. A member of the Muslim community, he has been the victim of racist attacks
in Northern Ireland.

Ahead of the rally, he told UTV that the Peter Robinson should apologise publicly
for recent controversial comments he made about Muslims.

The DUP leader's comments appeared to defend controversial evangelical pastor James
McConnell, whose sermon about Islam is being investigated by police. Mr Robinson has
previously insisted his remarks were "misinterpreted and given a meaning that was
never intended".

He met with NI's Muslim leaders earlier this week at Stormont Castle, where he
apologised in private.

Mr Samaana said the apology should not have been behind closed doors and he is angry
that the First Minister has not apologised to all Muslims.

"I heard the insult - but I haven't heard the apology. I heard that he apologised
before three men behind closed doors - that's not an apology, " he said.

He wants a public apology and for Peter Robinson to condemn the recent negative
comments made by Pastor McConnell.

The pastor likened "cells" of Muslims in Britain to the IRA as he addressed a
congregation at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast last Sunday.

He branded Islam a "heathen" doctrine and said it was "satanic" and "spawned in hell".

Mr Samaana said that Pastor McConnell needs to come out and condemn racists and
racist attacks.

As well as members of the Muslim community, people from South Africa and Poland were
among those who addressed the Belfast crowd.

The incoming Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon also spoke and promised to
represent everyone in Northern Ireland during her time in office.

Aisling Gallagher, one of the rally's planners, said that the event was organised at
the last minute on Thursday afternoon because "something needed to be done."

"There are so many people here who won't stand for this, and will speak up and
support the ethnic minorities who are undergoing this persecution - even when our
politicians won't."

A smaller anti-racism rally was also held in Londonderry on Saturday.