The English Defence League have called a national demonstation in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 7 September.
“the most important reason for going to Tower Hamlets is to remind the people that this borough is still part of the United Kingdom and not some province of Bangladesh. It is not a place for Islamic supremacists to dictate law and morality to the people of their neighbourhood, the city, or the country. We will not abandon the East End.”
I wish they would abandon the East End – we would then be able to continue our work of building on all the many positive values of this exciting, diverse and challenging place and addressing differences and problems in a way that does not depend on bigotry, ignorance, fear, lies and the threat of violence. They have twisted events of the last years to suggest a concerted campaign from within the Muslim community of Tower Hamlets to impose ‘Islamic supremacy’. They write:
“Unfortunately, as the Bangladeshi community grew to replace the vacuum left in this cultural exodus, it largely failed to integrate into the British way of life or to reconcile their cultural and religious differences with the people around them. Culminating in self-segregation, this insular behaviour has led to growing hostility towards non-Muslim residents, women, and whomever else their culture regards as beneath contempt.
Recently, Tower Hamlets reached boiling point. ‘Sharia Zone’ stickers began to appear. ‘Muslim Patrols’ roamed the streets at night, looking for haram behaviour to stamp out. No beer allowed, this is a Muslim area. No women without burkhas, this is a Muslim area. No homosexuals, this is a Muslim area. Get out or be brutally assaulted. This was their message to the people of London.”
It is, therefore, very important we show publicly that we do not want that defence and we do not share this view of the overwhelming majority of the Muslims who live here. Tommy Robinson, the leader of the EDL, has made clear the target of the day:
“I can’t wait till my bail conditions are gone so I can enter Tower Hamlets! I’m going straight to the East London Mosque”.
Once again, we must not leave it, either to that mosque, or the Muslim community of Tower Hamlets to show their opposition to the EDL. The range of local groups that make up United East End are calling for the widest possible display of community support for the diversity of this borough on 7 September. Once again, it is vital that all the faith communities have a very visible presence in this.
Joined up planning when the EDL last called a demonstration in Tower Hamlets in 2011 was somewhat hampered by political divisions within the borough. I am very hopeful that this can be avoided this time. Even in that situation, however, the community response was a great success – peaceful and well-organised (with the one exception that followed a police mistake of allowing an EDL coach to travel down Whitechapel after the demonstration). Very large numbers of people representing all sections of our community will be the key to ensuring both a peaceful day and a clear statement the Tower Hamlets is No Place For Hate, and that the EDL’s defence of us is neither necessary nor welcome. Please encourage your faith members and the local community groups you are in contact with to join in.
I am happy to discuss with you and/or your communities the issues raised by all of this. There is also an open invitation to the United East End’s planning meeting: Thursday 22 August, 6.30pm at the London Muslim Centre.
You might want to read the EDL’s full explanation of why they must return to Tower Hamlets, you can find it here: http://englishdefenceleague.org/edl-news-2/1993-tower-hamlets-why-the-edl-must-return
Rev Alan Green,