This weekend will see thousands of Muslim families come together, dress up in their best clothes, spend time together and eat together to commemorate “Qurbani” (the practice of sacrificing an animal performed to mark the end of the holy Hajj pilgrimage, the celebration known as Eid ul Adha). Many donate the meat from the animal to the poor in what translates into a global humanitarian effort by Muslims to reach out to those who most need their help.
The sentiments behind this weekend’s celebrations cannot be further then those which the far right English Defence League want to express in yet another planned march through Waltham Forest and Islington following their march through Walthamstow on the 1st of September. Only last weekend, 53 EDL supporters were arrested at various locations on their way in to London after an intelligence operation suggested they were planning a surprise protest outside a mosque in east London. They plan to march again this Saturday (27th October), but following a series of letters from the leader of Waltham Forest Council, Chris Robbins, to the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London and the Chair of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, the Metropolitan Police have now sought to ban the group marching in these areas.
Prior to EDL’s previous march in Walthamstow on 1 September, the Borough Council attempted to secure a ban, but in a statement explained the Home Secretary had not responded to its request and that the police would not prevent the march unless they think there is a serious threat to public order. At that time, the Borough Council appealed to residents to stay away from the march and any counter demonstrations “to avoid trouble”. Opponents of the march blocked its route, with a local newspaper claiming opponents outnumbered its 300 marchers by ten to one. At the first march, missiles were thrown and 20 people were arrested. The backdrop for this last march makes the timing of this second planned march even more sinister; it also shines a spot light on the real motives behind these marches through an area where they have been through in the past on a weekend which has religious and cultural significance for the thousands of Muslims who live in the area. The EDL’s motives can only be to provoke tension and hatred amongst a community which will want to be free to move around their area with their families and friends to celebrate this religious holiday. This is not only despicable but it’s also a bleak reminder of the workings of the EDL and how they will stop at nothing in their quest to stir up racial and religious tensions within local communities.
In his letter to the Teresa May, Chris Robbins stated “Following the public disorder that ensued on 1 September there is an overwhelming risk that a second march will erupt into violence. Knowingly putting our borough’s residents in harms way is not an option” To the Mayor, he wrote “We believe that these plans are tantamount to the harassment of our community…..whilst we agree that everyone has a right to protest, this latest stand by people with no connection to the borough is an abuse of this right” and to the Chair of the Police and Crime, he wrote “Our residents feel besieged by the ongoing target of our borough” These are powerful words from a council leader who has lived in East London all his life and is, therefore clearly in tune with the dynamics of his borough.
I am relieved that the police have taken the action to seek a ban for the planned march but ultimately, it is the Home Secretary alone who can stop these racist thugs in their tracks and ban them from marching through our peaceful and diverse community during a weekend designed to cause maximum offence and disruption.