When community tensions are high, the far right are never far away, rushing in to try and exploit them for their own political purposes. Hence when an Islamic group recently tried to set up a community centre in the Thurnby Lodge area of Leicester and some residents from the local estate objected, the BNP and other far right groups rushed to get involved in stirring up the resentment.
The Leicester Mercury reports that police have been stationed in the area over the past week after demonstrations of as many as 150 people against the As-Salaam Trust’s plans to convert a disused Scout hut into a community centre for local Muslims.
Some demonstrators say they want the Scout hut turned into a resource for the whole community and others have voiced support for a local boxing club to take on the lease instead. However, Leicester City Council has said that when the Scouts gave up their lease of the hut last year, 100 community groups looking for premises were contacted of which As-Salaam was the only one that could meet the criteria agreed with the Scout Association.
The demonstrations, which Leicestershire BNP involved themselves in, have focused on the Muslim group’s meetings at the existing community centre. The BNP said that “When the Muslims finally left the Centre they were met with jeers and told that they were not welcome.” Of course, the BNP have written this up in a way that supports their own agenda of promoting a clash between white and other communities. However, it would be very worrying if the protests are taking on a communal and islamophobic nature.
It seems that the tragedy here is that, thanks to the capitalist system of landlordism and rent extraction combined with the patronage politics of local authorities, suitable venues for community activities are unavailable to the working class people in the area. Only groups with the funds and organisation to jump through the council’s hoops end up getting a look in. We need communities where everyone can share resources and find a place, not ones where the poor are locked out and some ethnic and religious minorities are blamed for the scarcity that is an inevitable result of capitalist economics.
“Local BNP members offered their support and advice to the organisers,” according to the BNP’s blog, “but agreed to keep the group non-political.” It sounds like their red, white and blue rosettes aren’t as popular as they’d like them to be.