Community leaders have hit out after “idiots” targeted a Sunderland mosque in a graffiti attack.
Police are appealing for information after vile graffiti was sprayed on the side of Sunderland Central Mosque, also known as Sunderland Jami-Masjid, in Chester Road, close to the city centre.
The words “Muslims out” have been daubed on the side of the building, which is used by hundreds of people for prayers each week.
Syed Shuheb, who is imam at the mosque, said that while the vandlism was disappointing, he and other users of the site say they have received support from those nearby.
“It’s sad and it certainly doesn’t reflect the community around here at all,” said Mr Shuheb.
“It just takes one idiot to give a bad image of the city and what’s happened is not true of most people who live around here.
“We have had hundreds of people coming by to speak to us and express their disgust for this, which we appreciate.”
The mosque, which is open daily, is the oldest in Sunderland and has been open since the 1970s.
Between 100 and 200 muslims attend the site for prayers regularly, with between 600 and 700 visiting on Fridays.
CCTV footage from the mosque has now been handed over to police to examine as officers look to catch the person or people responsible.
“We are fully confident that the police will bring the perpatrators to justice,” added Mr Shuheb.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had incidents like this in the past and the response from the police has always been very good.
“They know that this kind of thing cannot and will not be tolerated in Sunderland.
“We don’t want incidents like this to spiral out of control.
“If it turns out to be a young person then we wouldn’t want the toughest sentence possible, but they need to know that this type of graffiti is just not acceptable.”
Niall Hodson, Liberal Democrat councillor for Millfield and Thornholme, said: “This unpleasant act of vandalism is really disappointing, and the council will of course lend any assistance necessary to the police in tackling it.
“Sunderland is an open and welcoming city – this attitude is not at all typical of the people who live here – and I know everyone in the local area will join with me in saying it is unacceptable.”
The incident is believed to have happened between 7.30pm on Friday and 7.20am on Saturday.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "Officers are carrying out inquiries and patrolling the area to provide reassurance."
Anyone who may have any information about the incident is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference 263 280117 or independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.