Loyalists forced Muslim convert from her home in Belfast as children were abused

The woman in this image is not Sumaiyah Ferguson.

A Muslim convert from Belfast has described her ordeal about the Islamophobic and racist abuse she and her family have endured by loyalists.

Sumaiyah Ferguson was forced out of her home in east Belfast by loyalist paramilitaries after becoming a Muslim in 2013.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, Ms Ferguson said her family had been the target of racist abuse even before she accepted Islam.

She said: “My children are mixed race, so living in a small Northern Ireland area wasn’t good.

“My sons were only ever referred to as the n-word. Even when new kids came into the area, they introduced him with the n-word.

“That is why we moved out, we thought Belfast is a bigger area, more diverse.

“I wasn’t Muslim when I moved into the area in east Belfast, but when I did become Muslim, I still didn’t wear the hijab or anything like that. Someone just happened to see me come out of the Mosque from the area.”

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Ms Ferguson said that two girls then came to her home and attacked her.

The next day loyalist paramilitaries came to her door and told her she had 24 hours to leave the neighbourhood.

She said the girls screamed Islamophobic abuse at her, saying she was a “f**king Muslim” and that she was a “bomber”.

The Muslim mother was at home with young daughters, who were aged five and two-years-old, during the incident.

The family was then re-homed in south Belfast.

Ms Ferguson said: “It is a very diverse area, there is a lot of Muslims.

“My girls go to a school, it is not integrated, but it is even more integrated than an integrated school.

“My son is 18. He would still get racially abused in the town centre.”

Racist graffiti in Portrush, Northern Ireland.

Ms Ferguson also mentioned that she knows people who have moved to Northern Ireland after fleeing the war in Syria who have been racially abused.

“They get a bombardment of abuse from gangs of youths- they don’t know they are just little toerags, so they are standing there in fear,” she added.

Ms Ferguson has supported calls for verbal abuse of ethnic and religious minorities to be made a crime, liking it to a physical assault.

The mother has chosen to tell her story after the Department of Justice asked a judge to oversee a review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland.

Judge Desmond Marrinan who is leading the review, will oversee the work of a group of experts and will report next year on their findings.

As well as new legislation around racist abuse and religious hate crimes, Mr Marrinan’s review may also lead to new laws pertaining to displaying of paramilitary flags.

Mr Marrinan told the BBC: “It will be looked at very closely to see if the law can be strengthened, particularly sectarian slogans or effigies being used in that way.

“But the review will be much more all-encompassing.

“If someone was simply to use offensive language, say towards a person from an ethnic minority, without the accompanying use of disorderly behaviour, the police would find it very difficult to find a crime to cover that.”

The review will produce an agreed definition of a hate crime.

There are around 1,500 hate crimes reported each year according to PSNI figures.

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