AN ISLAMIC leader has appealed for calm after Muslim graves at a Newport cemetery were desecrated with racist graffiti.
Mubarak Ali, secretary of the Islamic Society for Wales, has relatives buried in the Muslim area of the Christchurch Cemetery, which was targeted over the weekend.
Mr Ali is currently organising a vigil in memory of soldier Lee Rigby, who was killedon a London street in May. Vandals used white paint to write “Lee Rigby murder”, “white power” and drew swastikas on four gravestones.
Initials of the British National Party (BNP), the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the National Front (NF) were also smeared, as well as racist slogans.
Forensic teams were at the scene on Sunday to try and gather further information.
Mr Ali, 51, said: “I’ve lived in Newport for 47 years. I’ve never seen or heard of this kind of thing before.
“I’m appealing to the Muslim community for calm and not to react in a negative or violent way to this evil incident. Obviously, people are really angry and upset, but we must remember it is a small minority of idiots who did this.
“Most people in Newport get on very well, from all different backgrounds and it’s only the small minority that spoils it for the others.”
Mr Ali added: “What happened to Lee Rigby was evil, wicked. It was caused by extremists – they don’t represent the mainstream or vast majority of Muslims.
Most of us are law-abiding citizens of this country. We respect the Queen, country and armed forces.
“I’m still hoping for the candlelit vigil for Lee Rigby and collection for Help for Heroes to go ahead soon in Newport.”
One gravestone that was covered with paint was that of Sardar Ali, a relative of Mubarak Ali.
Sardar Ali was one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Society for Wales, and one of the elders in Newport’s Muslim community.
His grandson Shahid Hussain, 39, said: “I don’t know how to feel. I just can’t comprehend it. Why would anyone do this to a sacred ground?”
The grave of his eldest brother, Tariq Hussain, was also covered with paint.
Tariq Hussain from Newport died from a heart attack in January 2012, aged 39.
His youngest brother, Shakeel Hussain, 33, said: “When I first heard of it, I was just shocked. They are deceased – it is such a shameful act.”
David Phillips, chief executive of South East Wales Equality Council (SEWREC), condemned the actions.
He said: “I think most of the people of Newport would share my views in saying that it’s a disgraceful act.
“But it is very misguided as well.
“The people at the graves and their families were not responsible for Lee Rigby’s death and in that sense, it’s an own goal.”
Most of the paint has since been cleaned up by Newport council’s graffiti team.
Anyone with information is asked to call Gwent Police on 101.