CROWDS pouring into a North-East mosque this weekend brought with them a resounding message of hope and unity.

In the wake of terror attacks in Manchester and London, the Thornaby Muslim Association and Mosque was targeted by vandals who scrawled ‘Muslim cowards’ on its walls last week.

The mosque’s response was to organise an open day and to invite the community to speak to representatives from the Muslim community.

Hundreds of people poured into the mosque on Saturday to hear more about the Islamic faith and to put their questions to the Muslims present.

Eleanor Roberts, 30, said: “I’ve never been to a mosque before and I wanted to see what it was all about and learn more about Muslim views.

“I also wanted to show support and solidarity from the non-Muslim community and to show that what was written on the walls outside did not represent what everybody thinks.”

Speakers fielded a number of questions on issues from Muslim dress to integration, responses to terror and whether or not an app is available to help point people to Mecca.

Zakir Mahmoud told the crowd that such events were important in breaking down barriers in the community.

Referring to the recent vandalism at the mosque, he said: “When something like this happens, the mosque and its community can take two responses.

“They can become very insular and people can keep themselves to themselves or they can do what this mosque did and say come and talk to us.

“That is the British way – to grab a cup of tea and a biscuit, sit down and talk through the issues.”

He added: “We are part of the community, we are British and when things like the attacks in Manchester and London happen, they affect us.

“I can stand here on behalf of the Muslim community and say we completely condemn the attacks, they do not represent us in any way, shape or form and they go against everything we stand for.”

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Amjid Khazir, who lost his uncle to a racist attack, said it was humbling to see the strong show of support from the Teesside community.

Mr Khazir added: “It’s hugely important to do this, to tackle misconceptions and to sit people down and tell them we may have different traditions and beliefs but we share the same common values.

“I am humbled by the turn out, it engenders a sense of hope and shows that our local community will not be divided, that we can all sit down and enjoy a cup of tea together – what’s more British than that?”