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Monday, 19 September 2011

Essex: Reaction to English Defence League group in the town (UK)

A group that aims to challenge the “spread and threat” of Islamic extremism in the UK has set up a Colchester Garrison branch.

The English Defence League section says it supports serving soldiers in the town.

However, there is no suggestion the group is in any way linked to the garrison.

Its group on social networking site Facebook has 65 members and men have been seen in the town wearing T-shirts with the group’s logo.

Terry Sutton, president of the Royal British Legion in Colchester, said the group represented a minority of radicals.

He added: “With only 65 members online, they are not representing the views of the majority of people in Colchester.

“People are allowed to demonstrate their feelings however they wish. Whatever you may think about that, we live in a free country.

“Some people will be offended by it while others will just brush it aside and think it is just a radical few letting off some steam.”

Administrators of the Facebook group say it represents “the county of Essex and the people of Essex” and aims to challenge “the spread and threat of sharia law, sharia law courts and radical Islam, primarily at a local level within Essex”.

The new group is affiliated to the East Anglian division of the national league, which is the biggest in the country.

Most of the members from the newly-formed Colchester Garrison branch are believed to be from the Colchester and Clacton areas.

A Colchester shopkeeper who saw a man wearing the group’s T-shirt in the town recently said he was disgusted.

The man, who asked not to be named, said: “It is pretty unpleasant and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

“I don’t think people should be allowed to advertise their prejudiced views in that way and, considering this is a garrison town with lots of soldiers, I think it looks bad on them.

“I would hate to think there were soldiers in this town who agreed with their extremist views.

The Ministry of Defence said: “Soldiers are not precluded from joining the English Defence League, as long as they do not wear uniform, take part in demonstrations or do anything that would bring the Army into disrepute.”

Braintree and with Witham times