London's East End showed solidarity with its Muslim population as Nazis tried to stir up hate, reports Chris Nineham
Britain First is a relatively small fascist group that is making a bit of noise at the moment. One of their strategies is to stage threatening provocations at mosques and in areas with where some Muslims live, film people getting understandably angry, and post the results on social media, proving that Muslims are intolerant.
In the last few weeks, the group has been organising intimidating gatherings outside the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets. Their presence has caused anger but also contempt. They recently attempted what they called 'a mosque invasion', but the exercise descended into farce when their vehicle was spotted by a traffic warden on a pedestrian crossing.
Local people and organisations have responded impressively. On Friday there was a show of solidarity, strength, unity and outside the mosque in Whitechapel. Lots of local groups were present including teachers and council workers, Jewish residents, local church leaders and councillors.
Amongst many others the protest was addressed by the reverend Alan Green form the local interfaith forum, Branch Secretary of Unison locally, John McLoughlin, Mosque Director Dilwar Khan, Weyman Bennett from Stand Up to Racism, Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition, Councillor Olliur Rahman, and the Labour Mayor, John Biggs.
This kind of united response is exactly what is needed to isolate Britain First. As many speakers explained, Tower Hamlets has been a diverse area for centuries. It also has a long history of active solidarity and opposition to racist intimidation. The Britian First splinter group is in fact the product of the collapse of the Nazi BNP and the crisis of the English Defence League. Both groups have foundered in the face of contempt from the public and popular opposition.
As racism and particularly Islamophobia rises alarmingly around the world, we need to continue developing the widest and most effective anti-racist initiatives possible.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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