Call for calm ahead of anti-Islam protest

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‘Do not rise to EDL bait’, Manchester Muslims urged

MUSLIMS in Manchester are being urged to show restraint ahead of an anti-Islamic demonstration in the city this weekend.

A large police presence is expected in the heart of Manchester’s city centre this Saturday when supporters of the English Defence League and counter-protestors from Unite Against Fascism come head to head.

Tensions in the city are already high after a number of Muslims graves were vandalised in what police described as a race hate crime in the city’s Southern Cemetery last weekend.

Greater Manchester Police has already warned troublemakers to stay away from the protests.

The demonstration follows race-riots in Birmingham in September and August when the EDL clashed with anti-fascist supporters. On both occasions supporters of the two rival groups fought running battles as riot police struggled to contain the violence.

Despite failing in a bid to Home Secretary, Alan Johnson last month to have the protest banned, Manchester City Council has reiterated its stance in condemning the EDL.

Deputy Leader Jim Battle said it was clear the group was not wanted in the city. He also urged Muslims “not to rise to their bait”.

“Manchester has spoken with one voice on this – we don’t want the EDL here,” he said in a strongly worded statement.

“That’s why we felt it was so important to explore options with the Home Secretary to see if it could be prevented. While we welcome the Home Secretary’s strong condemnation of the EDL, we also accept that they cannot be stopped from coming to a city where they are not wanted.”

He said the only aims of the EDL were to “vilify, insult and provoke” the Muslim community, adding it was something “a united, welcoming city like Manchester” could not accept.

Despite stating they are not a racist group, the EDL has come under a barrage of criticism following earlier protests in Birmingham.

Last month Communities Minister John Denham accused the group of deliberately provoking British Muslims, while anti-fascist group Unite Against said their anti-Islamic demonstrations were an attempt to divide communities.

UAF supporters will hold their own counter-protest in Manchester on Saturday alongside a number of musicians who will play under the Love Music Hate Racism banner.

A spokesperson for UAF said: “EDL is a racist group dedicated to attacking Asian people and Muslims. Islamophobia – bigotry against Muslims – is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. Its aim is to divide us by making scapegoats of one community, just as the Nazis did with the Jews in the 1930s.

“Today they threaten the mosque, tomorrow it could a synagogue, temple or church. Today, they threaten Muslims; tomorrow it could be Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, blacks, gays, travellers or Eastern Europeans. 

“There is no place for Nazis, racists or the BNP in Manchester’s multi cultural and multi religious community.”

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