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Far-right March Sparks UK Muslims’ Fear

Published: 11/09/2013 12:18:36 AM GMT
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CAIRO - With Muslims expressing disappointment over repeated hate marches, the leader of a British far right group and dozens of anti-fascist counter protesters have been arrested after clashes erupted in an anti-Islam march (more)

CAIRO - With Muslims expressing disappointment over repeated hate marches, the leader of a British far right group and dozens of anti-fascist counter protesters have been arrested after clashes erupted in an anti-Islam march in the east London Tower Hamlets borough.

"We are celebrating peace and tranquility. We are not espousing violence," Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, Britain's first directly elected Muslim mayor told The Guardian on Sunday, September 8.

“The people who want to talk about violence and inflict violence and hate on others can just go back to their nests and their holes.

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"We just want to get on with our normal lives."

The Muslim mayor was expressing anger over the repetition of anti-Islam marches planned regularly by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) group.

A group of 500 members of the anti-Islam EDL massed up on Saturday in east London to protest what they claim that parts of Tower Hamlets are “subject to shari`ah Law”.

A day earlier, the EDL lost a court battle after police cut short the route of its planned march through the Tower Hamlets area, which has one of the biggest Muslim populations in the country.

Rejecting their hate message, a counter demonstration was held by left wing groups Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Hope not Hate.

About 3,000 officers were deployed as the group walked from Queen Elizabeth Street, over Tower Bridge, to Aldgate.

Police said 14 people, mainly from the EDL, were arrested for public order offences during the march.

Later on, police said about 150 counter-protesters had been arrested for diverting from their agreed route.

EDL leader, Tommy Robinson, was arrested also arrested during the march for for "incitement", EDL posted on twitter on Saturday.

"They [EDL] didn't come up with enough numbers and they really depended on the police to be able to escort them in an area where they were not really wanted. It really was like outsiders trying to cause trouble," Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Facism, said during protests, The Independent reported.

"I think that the EDL are attempting to persecute the Muslim community in Tower Hamlets in the same way that [1930s British fascist leader Oswald] Mosley tried to persecute the Jewish community here.

"The best thing about today was the mixture of people who came out. It was exciting to be here." Bennett added, estimating the number of anti-EDL protesters to exceed 7,000.

Fearful Muslims

After the end of the protests, Muslim leaders warned that EDL march spread "a feeling of fear" among the British community.

"It is not the right place to have this kind of demonstration,” Shaynul Khan, East London mosque (ELM) assistant executive director, told the Press Association.

Any location which has had an EDL demonstration in the past has always seen it descend in to some level of violence or vandalism - whether it is bricks going through a window or the public being attacked.”

Khan added that British Muslims were losing sense of safety in their homeland.

"There is a strong feeling from the vulnerable, particularly from those who are easily identifiable because of their religious dress, that if the English Defence League are here then they are not safe. I am sure that with that come a large sense of fear," he said.

The far-right protests drew further condemnations from local Labour London assembly member, John Biggs, who denounced "atrocious" EDL march, calling British people to stand up against racism.

"Tower Hamlets is a vibrant and diverse borough which I am proud to call home,” Biggs said.

Like many other areas of our country, there are problems such as unemployment and poverty, but the EDL blame 'others' for our country's problems in an attempt to divide us,” he added.

British Muslims, estimated at nearly 2.5 million, have been in the eye of storm since the 7/7 2005 attacks.

A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.

The EDL, a far-right group that emerged in 2009, has held numerous protests against what it calls “Islamic extremism” in Britain.

Far-right groups like the EDL and the British National Party (BNP) are playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.

In November 2010, British police warned that the anti-Muslim demonstration by the EDL fuel extremism and harm social cohesion in Britain.

Last September, the EDL was humiliated in Walthamstow district in northeast London when anti-fascists comprehensively routed it as it tried to stage a "national" demonstration.

Reproduced with permission from