Anti-Islam campaigners refused requests for a dialogue from Harrow Central Mosque at a rally today
Ajmal Masroor, a spokesman for the religious institution, crossed police lines to talk to affiliates of the English Defence League (EDL) and Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) at an anti-mosque rally, in Station Road. He invited representatives of the two groups to come into the mosque and discuss their objections to Muslim religion, but the protesters rejected the offer.
SIOE leader Stephen Gash said: “What's the point of me discussing with an Imam at the mosque. What we want is the debate with John Denham and the Home Office.”
Mr Masroor said: “An invitation was made to the groups but they've refused. We spoke to SIOE, extended the arm and invited them to the mosque and they refused. Stephen Gash said it was not worth his time to come and talk to us. As a community of people we have demonstrated we are united, we are not going to be hijacked by right wing fascist and racist groups. You are not going to be able to hijack [our] harmony and peaceful existence.”
Mahmood Awan, trustee of the mosque, said: “It's a shame that they are not prepared to have a dialogue. We could have tried to build bridges but they don't seem to want to do that. All they want is to come here and disrupt our community.”
Anti-fascists confronted the English Defence League and Stop Islamisation of Europe in a peaceful protest in the car park of Harrow Civic Centre, in Station Road. Members of the two organisations chanted slogans at each other from behind metal crowd control barriers and lines of police officers.
Mr Gash said: “I don't wish to be disruptive, especially around Christmas, but I say the only recourse available to us is the streets. Nobody will allow us to talk on TV.”
Paul Brown, of central London, an affiliate of EDL, said: “We are here to protest against the relentless march of Islam in Britain and across the world. It's been going on for centuries. People have been planning this. This is what Islam is all about. They go into areas and take over and crush everyone.”
Tony McNulty, MP for Harrow East, said: “They don't know what they are talking about. It's a protest fuelled by ignorance. It's a matter of profound despair to them that Harrow is such a united, multi-faith community.”
A message from Harrow Central Mosque
Victory for the peace loving people of Harrow
Today’s demonstration by the Stop Islamisation of Europe and the English Defence League was in every measure a miserable defeat for the hate mongers and the Islamaphobes.
The Harrow Central Mosque is extremely grateful that people from so many backgrounds and faiths stood shoulder to shoulder in support of and in solidarity towards this great centre of peace and harmony. The Mosque would also like to express its grateful thanks to the youth of Harrow and its surrounding areas for heeding the call to not attend this event.
During the afternoon the Mosque extended an invitation to both the groups and at one stage even directly invited the leaders of EDL to have face to face and civilised constructive dialogue with Mosque representatives. Initially they agreed but then changed their minds and went home. However, the SIOE declined to accept the invitation point blank and the leader of this group, Stephen Gash, said ‘this will be a total waste of time and fruitless exercise’.
The Mosque is always ready to welcome all people regardless of faith or background and is proud of its well long standing track record to uphold the principles of a multicultural and cohesive society.
So today was a victory for the people of Harrow and defeat for the racists and the fascists. There is only message the Mosque is willing to give- this is our home; Britain is our country; British people are our people; and we will do everything for its well-being.
Harrow Central Mosque