British police avert clashes at Luton anti-Islamist rally

By Reuters Staff
February 7, 2011
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(An English Defence League supporter with effigy of Osama Bin Laden mask during a rally in Luton, February 5, 2011/Paul Hackett)

About 1,500 far-right protesters marched through the centre of the British city of Luton Saturday to rally against “militant Islam,” requiring a heavy police presence to avert clashes with 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators. A sixth of Luton’s population is Muslim, and past marches by the English Defence League have led to conflict with their opponents. The city centre turned into a virtual ghost town before the rally, with shops boarded up and pubs closed.

But police and community activists averted large-scale violence, making only eight arrests on a mix of assault, drugs and weapons charges. There were no serious injuries.

Tensions ran high as EDL leader Stephen Lennon told marchers to reject the influence of Islam in British public life. “Every single one of you are on the forefront of the fight against militant Islam,” he said, as supporters chanted the EDL’s name and nationalist songs based on those more usually associated with English football games.

The EDL, which says it is not a racist organisation, welcomed a speech by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier Saturday, where he told international leaders that his country had been too tolerant of British Islamists who rejected Western norms. Multiculturalism has failed and left young Muslims vulnerable to radicalisation, he said in Munich.

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(English Defence League march in Luton, February 5, 2011/Paul Hackett)

Groups representing some British Muslims criticised Cameron for making the speech on the same day as the EDL march, and for implying that unwillingness to accept freedom of speech and equal rights was widespread among Muslims.

“British Muslims abhor terrorism and extremism and we have worked hard to eradicate this evil from our country, but to suggest that we do not sign up to the values of tolerance, respect and freedom is deeply offensive and incorrect,” said Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation.

Read the full story by Georgina Cooper here.
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3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Islamic values do not include tolerance for others.

Every place on the face of the globe, where Islam comes in contact with non-Muslim society, there is conflict.

The EDL only is reacting to an obvious problem that PC multiculturalists chose to ignore.

The EDL has the support of free people around the world.

Posted by BobSmith101 | Report as abusive

Mohammad Shafiq is lying. As anybody can read for themselves in the Koran. Either that or he’s got a different Koran than the ones online. Perhaps he can put at least one of these two quotes in proper context for me so that I can understand what is REALLY meant:

“The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.” Koran 9:30

“Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam” Koran 5:33

It’s easy to come up with a hundred more that Islamic supremacists quote all the time, all of them preaching intolerance and anti-freedom and hate, and how Islam must be supreme to any other religion or legal system, but let’s start with these.

Posted by DonnyMcKellar | Report as abusive

“About 1,500 far-right protesters”

So protesting against militant Islam makes one belong to the “far-right”. Give me a break. The media is crooked.

Posted by PhelanKA | Report as abusive