Fears of violence as right-wing groups plan September 11 mosque protest
Fiona Hamilton, London Correspondent
Anti-Islam demonstrators plan to protest outside one of London’s largest
mosques on Friday, the anniversary of September 11, raising the prospect of
Large numbers of anti-fascists also intend to descend on the site of the new
Harrow central mosque to show solidarity with Muslims.
Tensions are inflamed after riots in Birmingham over the weekend during an
anti-Islamic rally by the English Defence League. There were dozens of
arrests after clashes between the supporters of the right-wing EDL and
The EDL, which also clashed with Muslim groups in Birmingham a few weeks ago,
leading to 35 arrests, is affiliated to Casuals United, former football
hooligans who want to “fight Jihadists in the community”.
Both groups have promoted Friday’s protest on their websites. It is being
organised by a third right-wing group calling itself Stop Islamification of
SIOE, which claims that “Islamophobia is the height of commonsense”, says it
is planning a peaceful protest. However, fears of more ugly clashes were
raised when Unite Against Fascism announced that large numbers of its
demonstrators would also attend.
Weyman Bennett, UAF’s joint national secretary, accused the anti-Islam groups
of trying to start “ethnic conflict”. He told The Times: “These
self-confessed hooligans will attack people, I’m absolutely convinced about
that. What will happen then? There will be a response. They know exactly
what people will do, and they want a picture of people charging out of a
Although the building is not yet being used, hundreds of Muslims will be
praying next door on the site of the existing mosque. The protest is being
held during Ramadan and a large number of worshippers are expected.
Ghulam Rabbani, the general secretary of the mosque, told The Times
that extra security had been hired and worshippers had been urged to ignore
provocation. A similar protest was planned late last month and, although it
was cancelled, groups of young Asian boys gathered at the mosque, apparently
to defend it.
Mr Rabbani said that the Muslim community was upset at being targeted. “We
don’t know why they are singling us out. They say we are planning a Sharia
court but we have never had such a plan. This community is mixed with
Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews. We have had very good relations for 25
The EDL said that it was not sponsoring the Harrow protest and took down
information about it from its website yesterday. However, it was still
pointing supporters to it on its Facebook forum.
Tommy Robinson, an EDL organiser, said that the group had yet to decide
whether to join the SIOE for the event.
He said: “Our issue is with the mosque. It is near enough the size of Wembley.
Five floors. That’s not good for community cohesion.”
David Ashton, the leader of Harrow Council, said it was a “great shame” that
both groups of demonstrators felt they had to import their “extreme views”
into the borough. The Metropolitan Police said it was aware of the protest
and would ensure an “appropriate response”.
A spokeswoman said: “The borough has been working closely with the mosque and
other faith communities to ensure their concerns are taken into account in
the planning of the policing response.
“We will attempt to work with the organisers of all protests to provide a
proportionate and appropriate response, to ensure the safety of both local
people and the protesters.”