Campaign builds against Harrow mosque demo

Home Secretary Alan Johnson, local politicians and religious leaders of all denominations have joined the Jewish community in urging people to stay away from a demonstration against the building of Harrow mosque planned for this Sunday.

Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE), the organisation behind the demo, said it would press ahead with its protest against the building of the mosque and attacked Jewish leaders for opposing the demonstration.

A previous demonstration on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks ended in violence as Muslim youths chased SIOE demonstrators from the area.

The SIOE demo is expected to be met with a counter-demonstration from Unite Against Fascism. But the leader of Harrow Council, David Ashton, who is Jewish, said that solidarity for the mosque had already been expressed at a public meeting earlier this week and that people should stay away, even if they were tempted to demonstrate against SIOE.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain joined other religious leaders to lend his support to the mosque, which is seen as a moderate institution.

In a letter in this week’s JC, Cllr Ashton said: “Faith leaders and politicians of all parties stressed their unity before and after that event. We condemned those who sought to import extreme views into our borough. That applied to those trying to provoke Islamophobia.”

Mr Johnson told the local paprer Harrow Times that there was no need for the public to help protect the mosque from attack. “Police will be there to do that. You don’t need to turn up to demonstrate against a demonstration.”

Local rabbis also signed a letter in support of the mosque. They wrote to “express our support for our Muslim friends and neighbours, especially those at Harrow Central Mosque, who are under attack from those whose only purpose is to spread hatred and fear.”

The organiser of the demonstration, Stephen Gash, has always protested that he has no links to the far right. However, correspondence seen by the JC suggests that Gash has invited members of the anti-Muslim English Defence League to attend the demonstration.

A note to EDL members reads: “[Gash] invites EDL members to join him on Sunday, but part of the ‘memo of understanding’ with the police is that no other ‘groups’ or organisations are invited. Obviously, EDL members as individuals are allowed and very welcome.”

Asked whether the EDL would be attending, a spokesperson said: “Officially no, as it’s not our event, though some members may show support.”

Last updated: 10:08am, October 13 2010