Two pigs heads were dumped outside an Islamic girls school.

The Rt Rev Julian Henderson said the incident, being treated by police as a hate crime, was 'abhorrent' and 'shocking'.

He was joined in his condemnation by the Dean of Blackburn Christopher Armstrong, the town's MP Kate Hollern, and the chair of Lancashire's Council of Mosques Abdul Hamid Qureshi.

The pig heads, particularly offensive to Muslims to whom pork is an 'impure' meat, were left at the gates of the Markazul Uloom Girls School in Park Lee Road, Blackburn at the weekend.

Last week graffiti painted on the school wall reading 'no mosque' had to be removed.

Police said they were called on Saturday at 7am after one pig's head was found at the school gates and the other thrown over them.

Officers said they are treating the incident as a 'possibly racially or religiously motivated' crime.

Extra patrols have been brought in by police to reassure alarmed residents as officers appeal for help to catch those responsible.

The incident follows a controversial planning application been submitted to build a mosque with dome and minarets, at the school which has generated an online protest petition with almost 2,000 signatures.

Bishop Julian said: "I utterly condemn this abhorrent act which will shock any right thinking person.

"Whoever is responsible should hang their heads in shame.

"If certain individuals feel there should not be a mosque on this site there are established routes to make their objections.

"The location of this incident, a school for girls, causes me particular concern."

Mrs Hollern said: "I was horrified to hear about this incident.

"Blackburn has a record of promoting community cohesion and of every person treating others with dignity and respect."

Mr Qureshi, the chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said those responsible wanted to 'stir up hatred'.

He said after visiting the school gates: "It is appalling, disgusting and insulting to our faith.

"This is about stirring up hatred.

"The equivalent would be leaving these items outside a Jewish Synagogue.

"It is particularly distressing after what has been happening in Syria and Paris."

Dean Armstrong said the incident was the ultimate insult.

He said: "I am appalled at the knee jerk reaction of some people.

"They could not have tried harder to insult followers of the Muslim faith.

"This comes at a time after the Paris attacks when some people feel particularly vulnerable."

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: “This is a criminal act and any reasonable person will be appalled by this.

"We can’t let such actions overshadow all the positives and great features in our community and our borough.”

Residents in the area said they felt the incident was all about causing community divisions.

One said: "I think it's there to stir up racial hatred.

"It's there to cause divisions.

"It's something that has upset all sides of the community. Where does this end?"

Another said: "This is not just a Muslim issue it is a community issue.

"Incidents like this cause distrust in the community and it stirs up religious hatred.

"I have talked to two girls who go to the school and they're scared to go back because they think something is going to happen.

"They're 11-years-old and they're scared of wearing they're head scarves or showing that they're Muslim. It's disgusting."

Highercroft ward councillor and borough deputy leader Andy Kay said: "The whole issue of the school has been going on for many years now.

"There has been some vandalism where windows have been smashed but nothing like this.

"There are one or two members of the community who seem to have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and think there's already a mosque there but it is a long way from that at the moment.

"This incident is unacceptable, unreasonable and unnecessary, "Any reasonable minded person would be appalled by this extremely unpleasant incident.

"I would ask all sides of the community for restraint and to not overreact."

Blackburn Chief Inspector Sheena Tattum said: “The incident is being treated as a hate crime, possibly racially or religiously motivated.

"This is being treated extremely seriously and we understand the concern that incidents like this, while thankfully rare, can cause in the community.

"We have put extra patrols on in the area to try to offer some reassurance.

“An investigation is underway to identify those responsible.

"We have carried out house to house inquiries in the area and done a search through CCTV.

"We would appeal for anyone who has any information to call police on 101."

Nobody from the school was available for comment.

By Bill Jacobs