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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Bishop of Leicester leads a call for solidarity ahead of protest by EDL (UK)

The Bishop of Leicester has led a call for faith groups to stand together in "solidarity" ahead of a protest by the English Defence League.

Bishop Tim Stevens is a founder member of the Leicester Faith Leaders Forum, which yesterday issued a declaration condemning the English Defence League (EDL) in "the strongest terms".

The EDL – which says it campaigns against Islamic extremism – is planning a protest in the city on Saturday, October 9.

Police expect counter demonstrators, who accuse the EDL of using violent tactics, to swell the numbers involved to several thousand. The forum includes representatives of the Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths and other religious groups.

Bishop Tim said: "Over the years, the faith groups have said an attack on one is to be regarded an attack on us all. The EDL's tactic is to single out the Muslim community and we are clear that will not be allowed to happen in Leicester because we are all standing together in solidarity.

"The forum represents all the faiths and has been together since the 9/11 attacks in the US.

"It has seen us through that time, the Iraq war and the London bombings. I'm sure it will further strengthen the bonds between us after this latest attack on community relations in Leicester.

"The English Defence League has a right to express its views, no matter how distasteful they are.

"However, we hope they are rejected by the vast majority of people, people who live side by side and at peace with their neighbours.

"We shall all be saying to our congregations 'don't be drawn into this, let the EDL say what they have to say and we can then move on'."

The forum wants congregations to stay away from the protests on October 9.

Leicester City Council and the police have asked the Home Office to ban the march – and any march by its opponents. However, the authorities are powerless to prevent the EDL from staging a static protest. Its opponents, including Leicester Unite Against Fascism, are expected to stage counter protests.

Instead, people are being asked to support a peace vigil in the city centre on the Friday before the planned protest and a "celebration" of the city on the Sunday.

The Federation of Muslim Organisations, which represents almost 200 mosques and community groups, has also urged people not take part in counter demonstrations on the day.

Spokesman Suleman Nagdi said: "It is humbling to see the faith leaders speaking with one voice in their opposition to the English Defence League."

This is Leicestershire.