Muslim councillor calls on Britain First members who picketed East London Mosque to a debate
PUBLISHED: 17:05 21 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:43 23 March 2016
The Right-wing Britain First protesters who picketed the East London Mosque twice in 15 days telling Muslims they were "guests in this country" have been challenged to a debate.
The gauntlet was thrown down today by a Muslim local councillor who leads the opposition Independent group on Tower Hamlets Council.
It follows a solidarity rally after Muslim prayers on Friday when Cllr Ollui Rahman joined Labour Mayor John Biggs and Tower Hamlets Interfaith chairman Alan Green, the rector of St John on Bethnal Green, declaring the right-wingers unwelcome in the East End.
But Cllr Rahman has also asked the Home Secretary to ban Britain First from the area or holding “provocative demonstrations” outside any house of worship.
“I have been inundated with messages of anger and support from the community,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“I will not sit back and allow the community to be divided—people have the right to practice their religion and to go about without fear.
“I call for Britain First to be banned from further protests outside the mosque or any place of worship, and will be exploring ways to limit them.
“But in a true democratic tradition, I invite them for a civic, political or theological debate to make their point in a civilised manner.”
The “solidarity” rally organised by Unite East End umbrella group issued a declaration calling for tolerance and “the right of people to practice religion in peace and without fear”.
The declaration states: “We condemn the actions of a small group of extremists who have recently come to the East London Mosque in an attempt to intimidate and provoke members of our community.
“It is outrageous that groups such as ‘Britain First’ should bring their message of hate to a place heavily used by children, the elderly and bereaved.
“We call on the police and local authorities to review procedures to ensure that safety and anti-racist laws are upheld. Those who only come to Tower Hamlets to cause trouble should be immediately removed.
“This is ‘No Place for Hate’ and we stand together to oppose those who seek to divide us.”
The declaration was signed by the Bishop of Stepney, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, the local MP and 33 other community leaders, faith leaders from all religions, local councillors, school-teachers, trade-unionists and two GPs.
The ‘Britain First’ group had to be escorted from the mosque by police on March 12 to Altab Ali Park to disburse, in what is ironically the former St Mary’s church grounds renamed in memory of a victim of National Front violence who was murdered in 1978.