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EDL in Bristol: Muslim community calls for peace

Written by The Editor of Bristol 24-7 on Friday, 12th of July 2012


A Muslim community organisation in Bristol has called for peace tomorrow, when the English Defence League (EDL) march and a counter-demonstration take place.

Zaheer Shabir, Chair of Building the Bridge – an organisation whose aim is to encourage and support the Muslim community within the communities of Bristol – said the city’s Muslim community “will not support any act of aggression or a breach of the peace”.

He added that the organisation has met with EDL representatives “to create a pathway for future dialogue”, but the We Are Bristol group organising the counter-demonstration had “not proactively engaged with the Muslim community leadership”.

Mr Shabir asked that the following statement be made…

This is an agreed statement by drawing contributions from the diverse Muslim community leadership.

It has been made clear by many communities in Bristol that the English Defence League is not welcome here on July 14. As a vibrant and diverse Muslim community in Bristol, we have met extensively in recent weeks maintaining a clear, concise and unanimous message that we will NOT be involved in any kind of counter protest. These meetings have allowed us with a further opportunity to demonstrate how the Bristol Muslim
community meets any challenge with dignity and unity.

Despite there being a possibility, the Muslim community did not encourage anyone to sign the e-petition demanding a ban on EDL marching in our City of Bristol.

The number of meetings we have had with the Police and Bristol City Council clarify their position on the EDL march, the UAF counter protest and the Gay Pride family event. We have decided to be a part of the positive attitude of Bristol in conducting ourselves in the usual manner. We support Bristol City Council and the Police in ensuring that these events do not disrupt Bristol in its usual daily business and we are positively encouraged by that.

In a proactive manner, the Muslim community leadership have met with the EDL to create a pathway for future dialogue. This was the first of its kind in the UK and positive assurances were given by the EDL representatives.

We have also met with UAF and We Are Bristol to clarify our position on the counter protest requesting them not to confuse and entice Muslim youth to join their counter protest. They have not proactively engaged with the Muslim community leadership so we are not assured on any matters whatsoever.

However, we have urged both these groups to reconsider their intentions to march.

July as it disturbs the fabric of our city’s goodwill. However, Muslims in Bristol clearly understands the freedom to exercise the right to protest and express oneself. We have requested that anyone wishing to join the counter protest should do so to express themselves in a peaceful and meaningful way.

I am sure you will join me in agreeing that the diverse Muslim community in Bristol is resilient and intends to conduct itself with our usual dignity despite the challenges being presented with these issues. We refuse to be consumed in the rhetoric of hate and division which goes against the true meaning of Islam.

It would be more wrong to be involved in any clashes which lead to arrests and possible convictions. The Bristol Muslim Community will not support any act of aggression or a breach of the peace.

We hope this will not happen but it is an important message so the terms of engagement remain peaceful and do not get distorted or hijacked by a few that could bring shame to Bristol or tarnish the good name of our Bristol communities.

Bristol is proud to be productive on multiculturalism, diverse, understanding and cohesive. Bristol shines with the City of Sanctuary status and it has an excellent effective community cohesion strategy. Undoubtedly, it does hurt to have all these achievements smudged and marred whereas the event on July 15 will enable Bristol to reclaim and endorse our unity together.

In order to maintain the status quo of this city, there will be a peace walk on Sunday 15th July assembling at Queens Square at 2pm proceeding to Millennium Square. A series of messages have gone out inviting people of Bristol to celebrate the growing unity of all people in our city.

We trust the media to convey the Bristol Muslim community message of peace, acceptance and co-existance.

We hope Bristol enjoys itself at the Gay Pride family event. Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you on Queens Square on the 15th July at 2pm.”

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