A PALESTINIAN graduate who says he was savagely beaten for being a Muslim after wishing someone a merry Christmas has spoken of his shock.

Ihsan Abualrob described how he was repeatedly kicked in his head and body by three men as he lay cowering on the ground, and said at one point he thought he was going to die.

Is the North-East racist? 

The 27-year-old was treated in hospital after the street attack near the Happy Wanderer, in Framwellgate Moor, Durham, at 8.40pm on Christmas Eve.

Police confirmed two men have been arrested on suspicion of racially or religiously aggravated assault in connection with the attack.

Mr Abualrob said: “At one point I lost consciousness. I was helpless and thought this was the end of it. It was so scary and frightening.

“I felt not only in pain but humiliated. I come from Palestine, which is a very conflicted country, and I came here with the hope of having a peaceful life not having to live in fear.

“It’s my first Christmas ever outside of my country and that is my Christmas treat? They did this for nothing, but for me being a Muslim in this country.

"Christmas should be a time of love and hope, not violence."

Mr Abualrob is studying a masters in politics and international relations at Durham University, as part of the UK Government's Chevening Scholarship, aimed at developing global leaders.

He said: “I have bruises on my face, my knee is badly injured and above all, I have a bad concussion. I am dizzy and with a terrible headache and have blurred vision.

“My heart is broken and I am emotionally overwhelmed. I wished them a merry Christmas and they instead of doing the same attacked me.”

Mr Abualrob said he and a friend had gone to the pub to play pool, but found the table covered.

He said: “We don’t drink and were sitting there chatting when out of the blue a British guy approached us, pulled up a chair uninvited and asked where we were from.

“My friends said from Egypt and myself from Palestine. He said: “Egypt, Palestine. You Muslims. Are you suicide bombers?”

Mr Abualrob said when he and his friend left, three men were waiting outside the bar for them.

"They started insulting my religion," he said. "I said "Merry Christmas, enjoy your holiday" and didn’t say any more.

“We started crossing the street and they followed us. One of them threw an empty glass towards us. Then one of them lunged at me and punched me on my left check and I fell to the ground. Then three of them started kicking me in the head, shoulders and body. I grabbed my head in my arms trying to protect my face.

“I managed to get away and tried to get into the bar for protection. Because I was so dizzy I fell in front of the pub.”

Police who were called to the scene took Mr Abualrob to the University Hospital of North Durham.

A Durham Police spokesman said: “Police were called to an assault outside the Happy Wanderer pub in Durham at around 8.40pm on Christmas Eve.

“One man was taken to University Hospital North Durham with minor injuries.

“A 49-year-old man and a 23-year-old have been arrested on suspicion of racially or religiously aggravated assault with injury.”