Ethnic communities vow to ease interfaith tensions

Nicky Gavron, supporting United London Stands

Nicky Gavron, supporting United London Stands

A new interfaith group has been launched to try to prevent foreign conflicts causing tensions between religious communities in London.

Called United London Stands, it has emerged out of contacts between the London Jewish Forum and the City Circle, an independent group of young British Muslims.

At the group’s launch at City Hall in London last week, LJF chairman Adrian Cohen, citing the fallout from Israel’s recent attack on Gaza, said: “When we saw some of the passion unleashed on to the streets of London and the rapid escalation of attacks on Jewish property and individuals, we thought a voice was needed to speak out for Jewish-Muslim dialogue.”

Its policy document, signed by London Minister Tony McNulty, local politicians and representatives of seven faiths, states: “We are determined to ensure that those ethnic and religious communities within this city work to continue to build this city together.

“We are all Londoners committed to the growth and wellbeing of the city.”

It goes on: “We do not wish to see either the current economic downturn or recent international events in both India and the Middle East being used by those who wish to stir up racial and religious hatred within the City.”

Usama Hassan, the outgoing chief executive of the City Circle, stressed the need for contingency plans so that in the event of a repetition of the Gaza conflict, community leaders could act quickly and avoid “going back to square one”.

A report following a meeting between 16 Muslim and Jewish leaders earlier this month suggests practical measures to improve inter-communiy relations including political lobbying on issues of joint interest as well as sports or other programmes for youth.

Asim Siddiqui, the City Circle’s immediate past chairman, said that personal contacts would help supersede negative perceptions that Jews and Muslims had of each other. “Personally, I don’t think that young Jews and young Muslims know each other that well,” he observed.

The initiative, supported by the Three Faiths Forum, also envisages joint action by a wider consortium of faiths.

London Assembly member Nicky Gavron suggested that one common cause would be to ensure that as many Londoners as possible voted in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament in order to stop the British National Party taking a seat.

Without a similar campaign for last year’s London Assembly, she said, the BNP would have won three seats rather than the one they achieved.

    Last updated: 10:27am, April 2 2009