Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

This Hate Is Poison That Must Never Be Allowed to Spread; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

This Hate Is Poison That Must Never Be Allowed to Spread; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Gutteridge

THE murder of Drummer Lee Rigby has cast a pall of sadness across the nation.

Whereas every person with an ounce of humanity has expressed utter disgust at the act, including the leaders of all the major British Muslim groups, other more sinister forces are already exploiting it.

There's evidence far-right organisations are using the murder to provoke racially motivated unrest and an anti-Muslim backlash.

This manifested itself here in Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime. Normally Busy shops put up their shutters and 1,000 officers were drafted in to police our city centre as a march by the English Defence League, expected to attract 500 supporters at most, swelled to three times that number.

The demonstration was arranged months ago, ostensibly to protest against the council's decision to allow the Bishop's Palace in Benwell to be turned into a fee-paying Islamic school for young people who want to become Islamic scholars and clerics. The redundant Victorian location is best known as the set for Byker Grove, the long-running television series that launched Ant and Dec.

The EDL's website describes the site as "iconic" and objects to its use by "an ultra-conservative Muslim group that promotes intolerant and antiquated attitudes which we believe pose a serious threat to community cohesion and to the long-term security of this country".

On Saturday, provoked by a groundswell of feeling caused by Drummer Rigby's death, around 1,500 people showed up to voice anti-Muslim sentiments across our city's streets. The EDL leader Tommy Robinson, speaking to the crowd in Newcastle's Bigg Market, said the soldier was a "martyr who has started the fightback against the Muslims. This is a war."

Elsewhere across the country, polemic has turned into assault. Fiyaz Mughal, who runs a multi-faith organisation called Faith Matters, says there has been a "substantial spike" in the numbers of abuse and attacks on Muslims in the last week.

His organisation, which normally receives half a dozen cases a day, has seen the number rocket to 162 since Wednesday. Not long ago I spent a morning with Fiyaz. …

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