Saturday, 1 June 2013

After Woolwich, Unity demonstration at Downing Street today

The message is clear at Brent Town Hall last night

Following the banning of the EDL march in Woolwich there will be a unity demonstration by anti-racists at Downing Street as the BNP has called a national demonstration there today. The Unity Demonstration aims to unite community groups, faith groups and trades unionists in a peaceful statement that we will not let Islamaphobia divide us, will begin at 12 noon. You are advised to approach Downing Street from the Trafalgar Square end of Downing Street.

Muhammed Butt and Sarah Teather last night
Last night there was a 'One Brent' event at Brent Town Hall that was called to emphasise that the borough's diversity is a source of strength in the face of events such as the murder of the soldier Lee Rigby. Among those who spoke were Muhammed Butt, Sarah Teather MP, Barry Gardiner MP and faith leaders. At times it seemed more a concerted condemnation of the killers rather than a commemoration of Rigby or a celebration of Brent's strength through diversity.

I felt uncomfortable when Muhammed Butt said that  people who did not like how things were done in this country knew what to do - they could find the exit. Too close to what the extreme right-wing say - and of course not directly relevant to 'home grown extremists'.

Many contributions, as unavoidable at such events, were anodyne, with references to Rigby's perceived bravery and patriotism and 'the job he was doing defending this country' skating over the opposition of many to the role of the army in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Similarly the religious contributions, with the exception of one from a Syrian born Christian, emphasised the perceived similarities between religions with a claim that they were all about making connections between people and living in peace.

Since the Woolwich murder it has sometimes seemed that the Muslim religion is in the dock and has had to mount a defence in the wake of the killers' justification of their actions. Muhammed Butt in the opening speech made it clear that the actions and claims were nothing to do with Islam as a religion and did not reflect his personal interpretation of his religion. A Rabbi made a warm tribute to the strength and solidarity of Brent's Muslim community while a Muslim leader emphasised the importance of educating young people about the religion so that they were not led astray by extremist ideas.

A contribution that drew applause was one that said it was not enough to make speeches about Brent's unity: unity would only be brought about by day to day actions in the community and that everyone had a responsibility to make this happen.

1 comment:

  1. Cllr Butt must also condemn Barry Gardiner links with right wing hindu fundamentalist Chief Minister of Indian Gujaarat, Narendra Modi.