TWO men who daubed racist graffiti on a mosque have been slammed as “ignorant” after being locked up for a year.
The Nasir Mosque, in Brougham Terrace, Hartlepool, suffered an Islamophobic paint attack in November last year.
English Defence League (EDL) members Anthony Smith, 24, and Steven Vasey, 32, were responsible for the act and were sentenced to a year behind bars at Durham Crown Court yesterday.
Smith, of Neptune Way, Easington Colliery, and Vasey, of Prior’s Grange, Pittington, near Durham City, had both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racially-aggravated criminal damage in August.
Bilal Atkinson, regional president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which erected Hartlepool’s first purpose-built mosque in 2005, said he believed the damage was done because of a flashpoint in London.
That saw people calling themselves Muslims burning poppies, a symbol of the Royal British Legion and Armistice Day, in the capital.
Mr Atkinson, who also revealed the incident happened on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, said: “They had climbed over the fence and painted what looked like a Christian cross on the door and a big, red poppy.
“There had been some people calling themselves Muslims burning poppies in London and I believe this was a reaction to that.
“What they did not realise is our community used to raise money for the poppy appeal.
“It is only in pure ignorance that they have done this and it is unfortunate that they will now spend time in prison. But you have to obey the laws of where you live.
“I don’t think they will have even realised the significance of the day they did this.”
Charlotte Davies, 19, who pleaded guilty to the same charge earlier in the year, was given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for a year.
Davies, from Irving Path, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, is said to have sent text messages suggesting that the mosque should be vandalised, but pleaded on the basis that whatever she suggested was not carried out.
Durham Police said all three were members of the English Defence League (EDL) at the time when the offences were committed.
Mr Atkinson added: “When the mosque first opened there were minor problems, but we have not had many issues in Hartlepool. It is a good community.”