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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Clerics condemn Welsh Defence League demo

Two of Wales’ religious leaders have issued a joint statement condemning a planned demonstration by Welsh Defence League as “crude and dangerous”.

The Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan and the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales Saleem Kidwai say Saturday’s protest in Cardiff will “undermine efforts to promote tolerance and diversity”.

The Welsh Defence League (WDL) has already held protests in Swansea and Wrexham earlier this year.

Last October around 200 people staged a counter demonstration to protest against the WDL march in Swansea.
About 200 police, some on horses, kept the groups apart. One man, 25, was arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence.

In Wrexham the protest last November went off largely without incident, but four people were arrested after scuffles broke out in the town centre as a counter demonstration was also held.

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) is also planning a demonstration that will march from the Senedd to Cardiff City hall on Saturday.

In their joint statement Dr Morgan and Mr Kidwai said: “As leaders in the Christian and Muslim Communities in Wales we find the Defence League’s approach to the challenge of living in a diverse society to be crude, dangerous and unhelpful.

“Crude because it does not meet real human contact and exchanges; dangerous because it ignores the real issues in favour of simplistic stereotypes and rumours which exploit people’s ignorance and fears.”

But the statement also recognised that “there is a continuing problem in some parts of Britain” with “extremist Muslims”.

Mr Kidwai said the Defence League’s “profound and dangerous mistake” was to equate the behaviours of the minority with the majority of British Muslims.

“We recognise that there is a continuing problem in some parts of Britain where extremist Muslims are still active and recruit vulnerable, devout young Muslims to their anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-modernisation cause.

“But the Muslim Council of Wales rejects these behaviours and describes them as anti-Islamic.”

MP for Cardiff Central Jenny Willott said she abhors everything the WDL stands for.

The Lib Dem MP said: “The only thing that is very reassuring is that the WDL has very little support and they can’t do anything on their own without the English Defence League (EDL).”

But she conceded that concerns about radical Islam are fuelling support for extreme right-wing groups like the WDL and the EDL.

Last year the think tank Civitas claimed there could be as many as 85 sharia courts in Britain.

At the headquarters of the Islamic Sharia Council, in London, rulings are issued in matters of Muslim personal or civil law, including divorce, marriage, inheritance and settlement of dowry payments.

But Ms Willott said alongside people’s genuine concerns about radicalism there’s a misconception that sharia law is taking precedence over the British legal system.

Ms Willott said: “There are issues that people are concerned about and they have every right to be concerned about them, but I think things are being done to tackle them.

“But it needs a holistic approach – you need to tackle the areas where there are issues with rising fundamentalism, but also people’s lack of awareness and understanding as well.”

David Davies, MP for Monmouth, said there was a danger the issue of multiculturalism would be played out through violence unless political leaders have the courage to address the reasons why groups like the WDL and EDL are demonstrating. The Tory MP said: “The churches have not shied away from the fact that these protests have come about partly because of extremists within the Muslim community. They are right to try to discourage that form of extremism.

“Those of us who are not in the Muslim community should also discourage extremism. Otherwise we’ll see the debate about multiculturalism, immigration and integration played out in the form of violent street protests rather than discussed in a moderate way in parliament and through other bodies.”

Wales Online