Demonstrators who had gathered to protest at Islamic centre accept invitation to take refreshments and open a dialogue
A York mosque dealt with a potentially volatile situation after reports that it was going to be the focus of a demonstration organised by a far-right street protest movement – by inviting those taking part in the protest in for tea and biscuits.
Around half a dozen people arrived for the protest, promoted online by supporters of the EDL. A St George’s flag was nailed to the wooden fence in front of the mosque.
However, after members of the group accepted an invitation into the mosque, tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football.
A young member of York mosque displays his message. Photograph: Ann CzernikLeanne Staven, who had come for the protest, said that she had not come to the mosque to cause trouble but because “We need a voice”. “I think white British who have any concerns feel we can’t speak freely,” she said.
“Change has been coming for a long time and in light of what happened to that soldier in Woolwich there have to be restrictions on people learning extremist behaviour and it has to stop.”
Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said: “There is the possibility of having dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong.
“We have to start there. Who knows, perhaps the EDL will invite us to an event and the Muslim community will be generous in accepting that invitation?”
Ismail Miah, president of York mosque, added: “Under the banner of Islam there are very different politics: democratic politics, the far right, left, central, all over. You can’t target a whole community for what one or two people have done.
“What they’ve done in London is for their own reasons but there’s no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view.”