Thurnby Lodge protests rumble on

Evidently sensing a major embarrassment, Leicester City Council is backpedalling furiously on its decision to lease an abandoned building to a Muslim charity. The latest news is that mayor Peter Soulsby has said that the council is looking for an alternative site for the As-Salaam Trust’s proposed community centre.

Mohammed Lockhat of the Muslim group said that some worshippers had stopped attending prayers at the existing community centre due to a level of “intimidation” from protests, which have featured members of the BNP, including leader Nick Griffin, the EDL and Casuals United. However, it would be wrong to write off the protests as entirely islamophobic in nature as locals have clearly criticised the involvement of “outside groups” like the BNP and EDL in the press saying that their protests are about a lack of transparency in the council’s allocation of the building.

The Leicestershire BNP’s report on the protests of course talks up the involvement of the party and introduces the Islamic bogeyman wherever possible, decrying the appearance of a group of Muslim youths after one of the protests. “[W]hy were random muslim youths from outside the area getting involved with an issue which is none of their business?” they ask with massive hypocrisy. Muslims from the other side of town had far more business to be there, when their co-religionists were facing intimidation from the far right, than did Nick Griffin, who drove over from Wales in an attempt to stir up trouble. Far right dregs from across the area descended like a pack of wolves at the rumour of a clash between whites and Muslims, so it was only natural that there would be some kind of defensive response.

The BNP repeated the long scotched fake rumour about a Christian cross being covered to avoid offending Muslims, although they picked a different area to the EDL. They also insinuated that once As-Salaam had the scout hut soon the pub would be shut, invoking the magical “thin end of the wedge” argument with apparently no evidence whatsoever.

The BNP are not very good at using the internet. “What is this As Salaam sect?” they ask. “Nobody knows, nobody has heard of them, and nothing comes up on Google.” They clearly aren’t very good at searching because within a few seconds I’d found the group’s Facebook page which is linked to from a number of other sites. Mystery solved. “Where is a small, completely unknown sect getting so much money from?” I would imagine that, like most religious organisations, As-Salaam gets its money comes from donations from local worshippers. Why there should be any dark secret about this is never explained.

Finally the BNP have their obligatory moan about the unfairness of the mainstream media, in this case the Leicester Mercury which they say has not “report[ed] what the people of Thurnby Lodge are protesting about. They’ve been awfully quiet on the subject so far!” What they mean, of course, is that the Mercury’s reporters aren’t giving coverage of the BNP’s own reasons for protesting. The Mercury has given extensive coverage to the protests and has quoted protesters at length but because it doesn’t match with the BNP’s analysis it doesn’t count.

On the positive side, the Cautiously Pessimistic blog has picked up on our posts on the matter and has some interesting ideas about how anti-authoritarians in Leicester could organise on this issue:

[I]f we’re going to decisively win people away from the far-right, we need to demonstrate that, while our enemies on the right are ultimately just another set of politicians-in-waiting, we’re actually willing and able to do practical things to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

Cautiously Pessimistic suggests that helping to set up a community run social centre in the area might be a good way to do this:

It’ll take a lot of work, and at the end of the day you might not have anything much more interesting or radical than a boxing club to show for it. But it’s better than lining up on one side or another of a racial divide, or just chasing round after big one-day strikes, protests in London and international summits while the far-right recruits on our doorsteps.

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