THE regional president of a worldwide Muslim group has spoken of his sadness after a County Durham school cancelled its mosque trip.

Parents from Tow Law Millennium Primary School pulled their children from the visit citing the reason as the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.

School staff were due to take pupils to Hartlepool’s Nasir Mosque next week.

Bilal Atkinson, regional president for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK, told The Northern Echo he was saddened by the decision.

He said: “The vast majority, 99 per cent, of all Muslims are peace-loving people. We feel so aggravated that we should be tarred by the same brush of horrible criminals who carry out terrorist attacks. We are normal law abiding people.

“We (the Ahmadiyya Muslims) believe in loyalty to the country we live in. We are not a belligerent people - we are open and welcome anyone who wants to come in and look around.”

Mr Atkinson said the school had visited before and 13,500 youngsters have been welcomed since its doors opened 12 years ago.

He added the mosque had received an email from the school yesterday (Thursday) stating they would fix another date for the visit but parents outside the school last night rejected the idea.

Earlier this week the school sent a text to parents asking if they were happy for the visit to go ahead this Tuesday.

Just hours later another text sent out stated the visit would not take place “at this time”.

Donna Hind, 31, whose ten-year-old child was due to attend the visit, said: “I’m not a racist and a lot of people round here aren’t but with these attacks going on I just thought - no way. They could have picked a better time to go. I think people are scared at the minute.”

Kimberley Rowley, who refused consent for her ten-year-old daughter to attend, said: “I’ve got nothing against other cultures. I think they should be taught religious education but should not be going to a mosque or looking at the Quran.”

However, grandparent Fiona Nicol, whose three grandchildren attend the school, labelled the decision to scrap the trip as an “absolute disgrace” - adding she believed she was in “the minority”.

She said: “I think it’s an absolute insult to the mosque and Muslims to refuse to go because the assumption is that all Muslims are responsible for the hideous attacks.

“We didn’t blame Christians for the person who killed Jo Cox and we are not teaching children about tolerance and diversity.

“These people have nothing to do with the faith of Islam and by cancelling it, what message are they giving to the children?”

Lisa Jackson, headteacher at Tow Law Millennium Primary School, said: “We have no concerns at all about taking pupils on the planned trip but we need parental consent for any visit to go ahead.

“A number of pupils were withdrawn by parents who approached the school to say their children would not be attending and in light of that – as a small school – we needed to see if we had enough pupils still going.

“Unfortunately, at this time there are not enough children to make the trip viable but we hope to be able to reschedule this in the future.”