Britain First, the far-right group led by former BNP members Jim Dowson and Paul Golding, held a protest today outside a residential property in Southend which it is claimed has been used by the Jaafriya Islamic Welfare Centre for religious functions without planning permission.
As is often the way with these things, the controversy that led to the demonstration (end even provoked outrage among Islamophobes as far away as New York) was first stoked up by the mainstream right-wing press, in this case the Daily Mail.
Southend Council has served an enforcement notice on the owners of the property which takes effect in February 2013. In the meantime, the council has been in negotiations with the Jaafriya Islamic Welfare Centre to try and find a suitable alternative location.
Which you might have thought would provide a solution both to the local residents who have complained about noise and parking, and to the Muslims who need an appropriate space for their religious activities.
But this isn’t good enough for British Freedom. “Negotiations!”, a statement on their website exclaims indignantly. “An alternative location! Pander to Islam time and time again more like.”
British Freedom called their demonstration under the slogan “Close down the illegal mosque!“. However, this was obviously just a pretext for another exercise in anti-Muslim hate propaganda. As their banner shows, what BF really objects to is the building of any mosque anywhere in Britain.
BF called on “all patriots” to join their protest, and according a report on their website “volunteers from kindred organisations”, including the English Defence League, responded to the call. They even claimed “massive support from locals”. As you can see from the photo, this didn’t prevent the demonstration attracting a derisory turnout.