Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

City Muslim Councillor in Pledge to Support Jailed Far-Right Thug

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

City Muslim Councillor in Pledge to Support Jailed Far-Right Thug

Article excerpt

Byline: Sophie Doughty Crime Reporter sophie.doughty@ncjmedia.co.uk

WHILE they shared the same city streets, their political ideologies were worlds apart.

But now a Muslim councillor has become the unlikely supporter of a rioting thug jailed after a violent far-right protest.

Anthony Webster, from Newcastle's West End, is beginning a 21-month jail sentence after he and scores of other far-right supporters ran riot in Birmingham following a march through the city.

But today Coun Dipu Ahad, a passionate antifascism campaigner who has regularly publicly condemned such views, has revealed how he tried to help the yob turn his life around after meeting him and seeing his remorse.

And the Elswick councillor now feels he may have missed his chance to save Webster, and reach out to others through him.

He said: "I was gutted he went to jail. I think he just got swept up in it all and didn't know what he was getting himself into.

"I hope I can work with him when he gets out and show him what different communities are about. I really think he wants to change."

Webster, of West Road, was among more than 50 people charged with violent disorder after an English Defence League (EDL) march in Birmingham on July 20, 2013.

After yobs ran riot in the city's Centenary Square, hurling missiles and injuring a number of cops, a police operation stretching across the nation swung into action to trace those responsible.

And by last week 50 rioters had been jailed for a total of more than 75 years.

But as Webster awaited his fate at court, he ran into Coun Ahad on the West Road.

"After we got chatting I realised he was genuinely remorseful," said Coun Ahad. "He said he wanted to learn more about other cultures and religions. I told him to call me if he ever needed anything.

"He told me no one had ever shown him any support, and about three or four days after he gave me a call and we chatted.

"After speaking to me I think he realised that I'm a human being, like anyone else. I think he began to realise that Muslims are not bad people.

"He also assured me that he will withdraw his membership from any far right groups and will not partake in any demos in the future. …

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