Portsmouth's muslim leaders have condemned those who protested outside the city's mosque.
Scores of demonstrators gathered outside Portsmouth's Jami Mosque yesterday. They were protesting after a small group of Muslims - not from the city - burned poppies in London during the two minutes' silence on Armistice Day.
The protest, led by former soldier David Tallard, congregated outside the mosque at midday and numbered only a few. It broke for Pompey's home game against Doncaster, and gathered again shortly after 5pm this time with scores more taking part.
Peace protesters who had heard about the protest also gathered outside the mosque. Shouting between the two groups then ensued with fireworks being thrown into the peace campaigners. There was a strong police presence with one man from the demonstrators being arrested after a confrontation. A poppy had also been graffitied on the mosque the day before.
The Muslim community in Portsmouth said they condemned the burning of the poppies and that they would have joined any protest, had it not been directed at the Jami Mosque. Akf Suyeb, of the mosque, said: 'When these people are pointing their fingers at us about this, it's not right. We condemn the people who burnt the poppies, and we do show our respect to the people who died in war. After all, Indian people, Muslim people, also died during the first and second world wars.'
'We should remember that. As Muslims, we are not allowed to wear images of animals, but flowers are fine. And we would have been happy to have a poppy painted on the mosque - but it was graffiti, and they should have asked our permission before painting on our building. We would have absolutely joined in a protest, because the Muslim community condemns this act, but not when it is against our mosque.'
Former soldier Mr Tallard, 25, who was injured while serving in Iraq in 2004, insisted the protest was not racially motivated despite the location outside the mosque on Victoria Road South. He said: 'It is a busy road, and someone had already painted a poppy on the outside of the mosque. This protest has nothing to do with religion. We just don't want to see poppies being burned. It's just not right.'
A coach-load of members of the English Defence League nationalist group made the trip to Southsea from London to join in the protest. The EDL has a reputation for anti-Muslim protests and acts, though the group insists it only opposes Muslim extremists.
Mr Tallard, who served as a private with the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment, added: 'I don't know too much about the EDL but I do agree with some of what they say and it was good to see them here giving us their support.'
Simon Magorian, of the Unite Against Fascism group, said he believed the poppy issue had been 'hijacked' by members of the EDL. He said: 'They don't care about it, they just want to stir up as much ill feeling against Islam as possible.'
Thanks to NewsHound for the heads-up.