Tuesday, May 28, 2013

York mosque counters EDL protest with tea, biscuits and football

The Guardian (UK)
Ann Czernik
May 27, 2013.

Demonstrators who had gathered to protest at Islamic centre accept invitation to take refreshments and open a dialogue

Leanne Spaven, an EDL supporter who said she hadn't come to cause 
trouble but wanted a voice, has tea with York mosque members. 
(Photographs: Ann Czernik for the Guardian)

A York mosque dealt with a potentially volatile situation after reports that it was going to be the focus of a demonstration organised by a far-right street protest movement - by inviting those taking part in the protest in for tea and biscuits.

Around half a dozen people arrived for the protest, promoted online by supporters of the EDL. A St George's flag was nailed to the wooden fence in front of the mosque.

However, after members of the group accepted an invitation into the mosque, tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football.

A young member of York mosque displays his message.Leanne Staven, who had come for the protest, said that she had not come to the mosque to cause trouble but because "We need a voice". "I think white British who have any concerns feel we can't speak freely," she said.

"Change has been coming for a long time and in light of what happened to that soldier in Woolwich there have to be restrictions on people learning extremist behaviour and it has to stop."

Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said: "There is the possibility of having dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong.

"We have to start there. Who knows, perhaps the EDL will invite us to an event and the Muslim community will be generous in accepting that invitation?"

Ismail Miah, president of York mosque, added: "Under the banner of Islam there are very different politics: democratic politics, the far right, left, central, all over. You can't target a whole community for what one or two people have done.

"What they've done in London is for their own reasons but there's no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view."

Read the original article here.
Comment: I think dialog is a good thing in any circumstances.  Violence is never an option is my thinking too.

I do, however, have reservations about meetings that proceed to ignore or downplay the causal issues behind conflict and even violence.

I have said here before that I do not condone violence and certainly not the kind that is supposed to be couched in some kind of Islamic rationalization.

The Islam I know does not kill innocents, fly planes into buildings or seek out opportunities for revenge.

Yet I worry that in the rush to bridge rifts in communities where Islam is made suspect the principle of protest for what the West perpetrates against Muslims is not lost.

Appeasement should not be the principle of engagement because frankly what the West does to Muslims is egregious, vile and inhumane.

Though I applaud what the Muslim community at the York mosque did in opening the doors of friendship I think it necessary to be militantly non-violent about protesting the inhumanity of the West's role in Muslim countries and among Muslim communities.

There are real grievance on the table that cannot be ignored no matter how much any of us want to believe in the healing power of seeking engagement and peace.

No amount of working toward peace can erode the fact that what those young men did in Woolwich is caused by what the West does to Muslims.

Chomsky perhaps puts it best when he says if you want terrorism to stop then stop terrorizing Muslims.

Compartmentalizing blame and making as if radicalized young men and Islam are the problem is delusional at best and dishonest at worst.

Militant non-violence, therefore, must be aimed at the cause.

And the cause is to be found in the greedy and barbaric behavior of Western states and their leaders.

Pointing fingers at Muslims and Islam is just a ruse and organizations like the EDL are just opportunistically engaging their racist rhetoric and anti-immigrant stance in the fallout of Woolwich.

Still, what happened at the York mosque is encouraging and speaks to the greater principle of peace among humans.


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