Friday, September 18, 2009

Anti-Muslim extremists plan Scots protest

By David Leask
ANTI-MUSLIM extremists linked with serious unrest in England are planning a major demonstration in Glasgow, it has emerged.

The English Defence League (EDF) aims to take to the streets of Scotland's biggest city on Saturday, 14 November, sparking major safety concerns among police and council insiders.

The organisation, which denies it is racist and insists it is only against Islamic militants rather than all Muslims, has set up a wing north of the Border called the Scottish Defence League.

An EDF rally in Birmingham erupted into violence this summer, prompting scores of arrests. Supporters are understood to have links with far-right groups and football hooligans. Some have been seen making Nazi salutes.

Communities Secretary John Denham this month raised fears of a return to 1930s fascism when he compared some far-right groups to Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts. The Scotsman understands that the EDF – or its purported Scottish wing – has still to ask for permission to march through Glasgow.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council yesterday said "any application would be considered". However, senior officials at the authority, which has the power to ban marches on police safety advice, would be keen to block any demonstration that is deemed likely to lead to violence.

Strathclyde Police were unavailable for comment last night.

Some city leaders fear that the EDF could spark counter-demonstrations from Glasgow's still highly mobilised left groups and from city Islamists.

"We think these guys (the EDF] want to see pictures of people in Union Jack T-shirts with blood on their heads," said one.

"We are not going to let that happen in Glasgow.

"If they are coming up here looking for a fight – there is no way they are going to get it. The police know how to deal with these guys."

The Glasgow demonstration was announced on the Facebook website this week. Some 132 people have already said they will attend.

The time and place of the rally have still to be settled. Any attempt to approach sensitive areas, such as Glasgow Central Mosque, would present serious public safety problems, city insiders confirmed to The Scotsman.

EDF supporters south of the Border have been seen parading with placards against the building of new mosques.

The Scottish Islamic Foundation yesterday said it would be organising a public meeting within the next seven days to work out how it should respond to extreme anti-Islamic groups crossing the border.

The group's chairman, Asif Ahmed, said: "This is time for Scotland to once again show we will not be divided by extremists. We have faced worse and come through it.

"The last time Glasgow was tested was at the 2007 airport attack. What we saw then was all strands of society coming together for a remarkable show of solidarity in George Square.

"We'll be working again to make sure that the numbers peacefully opposing extremism will far outstrip that of the haters."

Manchester City Council has sought help from the Home Office to find ways of banning an EDF march scheduled for its streets next month.

H/T Gramfan

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