Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Islam4UK Issues Challenge to PM

An Islamist group organising a demo in Wootton Bassett has agreed to call it off - if the Prime Minister agrees to a debate on Afghanistan.

Islam4UK has said it would apply to police "in the next few days" for permission to protest in the Wiltshire town famous for honouring repatriated British troops.

The plan for the demonstration, which would see dozens of symbolic coffins representing Afghan civilians killed in the conflict, has caused widespread public anger.

More than 250,000 people have signed an online petition calling for it to be banned.

Now, Islam4UK leader Anjem Choudary has said it could be called off - as long as Gordon Brown or any of his ministers agrees to take part in a televised debate on the war.

He added that controversial cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed should be allowed to take part.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Brown had already made known his views on the planned march, which he described as "abhorrent and offensive".
The spokesman declined to comment on Mr Choudary's offer to call off the protest if the Prime Minister agreed to a debate.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he would have "no hesitation" in supporting a ban on the march if police or the council requested one.

The Wiltshire Islamic Cultural Centre has asked Wiltshire Police not to allow the march.

A statement on the group's website said: "We, along with all other Muslim community groups in Wiltshire and the surrounding area... unreservedly condemn this march and call on the organisers, Islam4UK, to not go ahead with it in the interests of public safety and the Muslims they claim to represent as well as to respect the rights of the people of Wootton Bassett and Wiltshire.

"We will hold Anjem Choudary and al-Muhajiroun responsible for any backlash against any Muslim in Wiltshire or elsewhere as a result of their proposed irresponsible and irrational actions and any insecurity brought upon the majority peaceful Muslim population."

The groups said they were willing to stage their own rally to "peacefully counter-demonstrate against Islam4UK" should the march be permitted to go ahead.

Hundreds of people are set to line the streets to pay their respects as the bodies of Rifleman Aiden Howell and Sapper David Watson are driven along Wootton Bassett's High Street.

Sapper Watson, 23, of 33 Engineer Regiment - a bomb disposal expert - and Rifleman Howell, 19, of 3rd Battalion the Rifles, were killed in Afghanistan in the last week of December.

The men have been flown in to nearby RAF Lyneham in advance of the funeral procession through Wootton watched by civic leaders, relatives and British Legion members.

Don't let them demonstarte through Wootton Bassett. Please sign the online petition


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