May 02, 2007

Row erupts over BNP mosque letter

A row has broken out in Lincoln over a letter sent by a British National Party representative to the council leader criticising a new mosque in the city. Richard Foster, the BNP's regional representative in Lincoln, wrote claiming the mosque, on the site of a former church, could "teach terrorism".

Council leader Ric Metcalfe said the letter was being shown to the police to determine whether it broke race laws. All other parties standing in the local election have condemned the letter. A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said they had not yet seen the letter but were aware of the council's plans to involve them.

"I think it is absolutely outrageous and exposes the BNP for the party it's always been known to be and a party holding overtly racist views," said Mr Metcalfe, who is Labour leader on the council.

But Mr Foster defended his words, saying his opinions were nothing new.

"The building would become an Islamic centre, rather than just a mosque and this can mean that the Islamic form of 'getting your own way' - terrorism - could be taught there. I don't know if you're aware of the programme 'The Undercover Mosque' but anything I have put in this letter, in that documentary far, far, far worse things have been said about the [Muslim] community. I don't need anybody to tell me that the only thing to happen in these places is worshipping their god because we all know that isn't the case. Not all Muslims are terrorists but most terrorists are Muslims," he said.

Bashir Ahmed, from Lincolnshire's Racial Equality Council, said he was shocked at the letter's contents.

"To blame a particular group for something is a sign of racism. This [the BNP] is not a party to recommend neighbourly living or getting on, it's a racist party and there's no doubt about it."

'Prejudiced letter'

Eddie Strengiel, from the Conservative Party in Lincoln, said he agreed with the council's views.

"I would go along with Ric Metcalfe's comments. He and I have a lot of disagreements on the political side but this is above politics and is on dangerous ground. I don't agree with what they've said."

Echoing Mr Strengiel's words, Tony Charles Shaw, from the Liberal Democrats, said: "The BNP...doesn't actually, or it does think about the consequences of what it does but gets the argument wrong on almost every occasion. For me this is a totally prejudiced letter."

Tony Wells, a candidate for the UK Independence Party said the letter was "extreme" in its comments. "There's no doubt about it, the BNP is extreme right and fascist and can't get any further right."


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