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Last Saturday (June 1st) a small group of British National Party supporters, apparently 150 of them (it looked about 40), had a pen to protest in outside parliament. Across the country on this day there were a total of 55 protests held by the BNP, English Defence League, National Front, and other racists hoping to pass off the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by an extremist Muslim as representative of Islam, and as the fault of immigration. All but two of these protests were outnumbered by counter-demos, mostly organised by Unite Against Fascism. It was great to see many SWP and ex-SWP members around, as well as our old sign The BNP is a Nazi Party – Smash the BNP. Many members of the Socialist Party were present, as well as Unison and PCS activists.

We managed, by refusing to be moved, to prevent the BNP from marching for five hours (midday to 5pm). When the police managed to get them marching, only 15 of them remained. Some activists against the badger cull managed to finally break them up! Human rights activist Peter Tatchell later recommended on twitter later that UAF use a “sitting protest” rather than the usual “macho methods”. Some of the ‘Anonymous’ protesters tried this, for about five minutes. It is a liberal tactic that achieves nothing more than a chalk drawing of a peace symbol. By allowing the fash to march freely, we would be guilty of giving them a platform. Most of the 58 antifascists who were arrested and dealt with so violently were protesting peacefully and defending democracy. [Relevant reading from ’77: In Defence of Violence]

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I delivered this letter yesterday. The Mosque was attacked by some EDL dickheads, one of whom has been arrested. Some people have raised issue with the Surah quote, saying it was out of context or I should have used the full version. However, the people who thought it was inappropriate were non-Muslims, and I had three Muslims who though it was fitting. I know almost nothing about Islamic scripture so I still don’t mind if anyone wants to correct me.

“Members of Gillingham Mosque,

It is a relief to hear that nobody was hurt in the attacks on your place of worship, and a relief that you dealt with the material damage fairly quickly. Once again the English Defence League has responded to extremism with its own extremism, lashing out at a community that has nothing to do with the violence in Woolwich and are the first to condemn such actions.

“To kill one man is to kill all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” – Surah, 5:23

Local anti-fascists have already been checking up on the Mosque and other affected Mosques and Islamic centres around the country, showing their concern for a diverse faith group that is so often demonised. It must be demoralising knowing that the group who is most often seen talking about Islam in mainstream media is also the group that understands it the least. Even more troubling is how easily their racist rhetoric and chanting catches on. But remember that you will always have friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, to rely on every time populist racism flares up. The majority of people oppose the message and tactics of the EDL and don’t want to see a fascist Britain.

Stay safe and continue to educate people on your religion and the cultures surrounding it, for if the members of the EDL were truly informed, they would have nothing to hate.

In solidarity,”

The letter was signed by East Kent Unite Against Fascism and 44 individuals, one of whom left their own message: “I have always been proud to be born and bred in Medway and will defend my home from people who often look down on it, but yesterday I felt shame for the first time. Racists out of Gillinghan, don’t let the Islamophobes divide us.”

For a recent show about religion on Channel 4, journalist Mehdi Hasan interviewed Prof Richard Dawkins, in a lengthy back-and-forth on religion and evil. Knowing that Hasan is a devout Muslim, Dawkins thought he’d be clever and ask if he believed that Muhammad really flew to heaven on a winged horse. Hasan didn’t really have a comeback. The audience laughed, I think at Dawks in a dismissive way.

Later on Twitter, for some reason not ‘@’ing Hasan, he complained:

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Mehdi Hasan presents on Al Jazeera and writes for New Statesman and Huffington Post. He has a lot to say about being a Muslim in the UK, yet, there isn’t one instance in his work where the belief about a winged horse has jeopardised his journalistic integrity, directly led to irrationality or revisionism, or forced him to make a factual error. Outside of mere matters of the specifics religious belief, and any parabolic moral implications, it is probably a non-factor.

Obviously there are occasions when a personal belief can conflict with a profession. Someone who believes certain sex acts deserve capital punishment is not in the best position to be a human rights lawyer or ethics professor. A medical doctor won’t be taken seriously if they think that the MMR vaccine leads to autism. This specific miraculous belief says nothing about one’s skill as a journalist.

Mehdi Hasan’s regularly updated Huffpo blog

and his writing for the New Statesman