SCORES of anti-fascist activists from a wide spectrum of local community, faith and trade union organisations have spent the last couple of weeks distributing leaflets and attending organising meetings to get a massive turnout this Saturday 7th September to block the Islamophobic English Defence League from carrying out their plans to march through Tower Hamlets.
The local Labour Party, including the MP Jim Fitzpatrick, the Mayor’s office and many councillors are calling on the police to ban the EDL from bringing their message of hatred and division into this very diverse but unified community.
But the police have given no indication of how they intend to manage the EDL, whether they will ban them, allow them a restricted static demonstration just outside the borough boundary in Aldgate as they did two years ago, or allow them to march through the borough just as they want.
Leading activists are surmising that the police have not made up their minds and will respond according to the turnout by the EDL and by the anti-fascists. So a huge mobilisation for anti-fascists is critical.
At a press conference in Tower Hamlets last Friday Glyn Robbins, representing United the East End, said that his family had lived in the area for over 200 years. . “But that doesn’t give me more rights than anyone else in this area. This area is changing and it always has but the EDL have a problem with change. The people who live here do not.
“The Mosques here are open to local people to visit and they do a lot to build relations with the wider community.
“The EDL intends to come into this area – and it seems they are going to be coming – they are a clear and present danger to our community. They come with a message of not just hatred and bigotry but also violence.
“Our organisation, United East End, includes community and faith groups and trade unions and Rainbow Hamlets, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender group, who are not here today but they are very much part of our community.”
Weyman Bennett, joint leader of Unite Against Fascism, said the UAF has been opposing the EDL since 2010: “The EDL say they are opposed to Islam but they attack everybody and they are trying to divide communities.”
He spoke about the community centre in Muswell Hill that was burnt out and he had just visited the Harlow Muslim Centre the night before, which had suffered an arson attack – where the attackers had tried to drill into the gas supply to set their charges.
“These people used to attack synagogues; now they attack Mosques,” he said. “If they are allowed they will end up attacking everyone.”
Leon Silver, of East London Central Synagogue, said that Tower Hamlets, or Stepney as it used to be known, has been home to wave after wave of immigrants for centuries; it is the first port of call for those coming into London.
“In 1905 they passed the Aliens Act, which was aimed at Jewish communities. What was said about Jews then they are saying about Muslims now.
“Every wave of immigrants into the East End has in time integrated into the local community. But they have not assimilated; they have kept their culture and identity and added it to the local mix, which becomes ever richer for it.
“Outsiders like the EDL just don’t get it.
“In the 1930s Oswald Mosley tried to come into the East End to spread division and hate and to attack the Jewish immigrant population. But the whole population came out to stop him, including the Irish dockers.
“And when the EDL come in to attack our Muslim brothers and sisters we will all come out to defend them.”
Dilowar Khan, representing the East London Mosque spoke on the history of the Islamic community in east London, which has existed for over a century now. “We are no longer immigrants, we are part of the community and we don’t have another home to go to, so we are staying. We are part and parcel of the community here.
“The Mosques in this country play a very positive role in turning young people into good citizens.”
Other speakers at the press conference included Cllr Rania Khan of the Tower Hamlets Mayor’s group, Cllr Rachel Saunders of the Tower Hamlets Labour group, the Reverend Alan Green, chair of Tower Hamlets Inter-Faith Forum and Abdullah Falliq of the Islam Forum of the EU.