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EDL in Birmingham: 'Best of British' tea party held at mosque as two arrested at rally

Birmingham | News | Published:

Officials at a mosque have answered the "hatred and division" of an English Defence League rally by hosting a "best of British" tea party.

The open-to-all gathering at Birmingham's Central Mosque, which saw the building decked out with Union Flag bunting, was organised in response to an EDL event being held on Saturday in the city centre.

Originally earmarked to take place in the East Midlands, the EDL demonstration was switched to Birmingham after the Westminster terror attack to highlight what the group describes as a "continued increase in Islamic terrorism" linked to the city.

The EDL rally in Centenary Square attracted approximately 100 supporters and passed off without any major disorder.

West Midlands Police said two people, thought to be counter-protestors, had been arrested for alleged breaches of the peace.

Officers policing the event were twice forced to form cordons to keep EDL supporters and anti-fascist activists apart.

The rally - condemned by Birmingham's political leaders in a cross-party statement - is also said by the EDL to be a reaction to the city's so-called Trojan Horse schools inquiry.

Speaking to more than 100 guests at the tea party, which started two hours before the EDL event, Birmingham Central Mosque's chairman Muhammed Afzal said local people would remain united irrespective of their religion or race.

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In a Facebook message posted prior to the party, Mr Afzal said: "When the English Defence League is protesting and trying to divide the community, we are holding this party just to prove to them that Birmingham is a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith community.

"We are all united and they will not be able to divide us and create hatred."

The West Midlands' elected Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, also attended the party.

Claiming the EDL was bringing "little more than division" to the region, Mr Jamieson said: "We are here today to celebrate the things that Brummies and English people hold in common.

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"The English Defence League are spreading a message of hatred. They have come from outside Birmingham and they don't understand our values."

Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne also addressed those who gathered to chat over cake, tea and coffee at the mosque.

The Labour MP told party-goers: "Today this is how we protest - by celebrating the quiet miracle of a normal life and the things that we love most about our city and about our country.

"Getting together as friends, getting together as neighbours, breaking a bit of Victoria sponge and having a cup of tea. That is a potent, powerful message that we will send to those who seek to divide us."

An EDL march attended by an estimated 2,000 protestors in Birmingham on July 20 2013 saw missiles, including stones, bottles and broken glass, hurled at police officers in Centenary Square, resulting in several minor injuries.

More than 50 men were later convicted of violent disorder, including a 21-year-old who was jailed for three years and 10 months.

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