11 September 2009
Outside Harrow Mosque
Arriving a bit late to join friends at the SIOE (Stop Islamisation of Europe) demonstration I rushed out of the tube station and quickly realise that this demo was not going to be the sedate affairs of previous years and that the threats of the UAF (United Against Fascism) and various Muslim organisations to ‘protect the Mosque’ from the ‘racists BNP’ were being taken seriously by the police. There were easily three dozen at the station itself in riot gear.
Wandering around and getting lost I walked passed a group of young men who were leaning up against a building with another dozen or so police in front of them. One of the men had a slight head injury with blood clearly visible.
Asking for directions from an elderly man who was outside observing the commotion and the constant helicopter presence he told me, ‘you do not want to go there. There is only trouble there.’ But he gave me directions anyway to the Mosque.
After a few turns the numbers of police increased, all in riot gear. Another turn of a corner I saw maybe a 1,000 people gathered up the road in front of the Mosque. A few walked past me holding ‘Stop the Fascist BNP’ banners. Then like wildebeests or bee swarms hundreds of young men came running toward me, shouting and waving. I stepped between two cars and they eventually passed.
Milling around in front of the Mosque were large numbers of the anti-demo demonstrators with many in Muslim garb. The SIOE demo was no where in site. After passing through the bulk of the anti-demo demonstrators I asked a police officer where the legally sanctioned SIOE demo was located and where were the actual people. He said that maybe they have not arrived yet.
I then began to chat with a few people. The first man I spoke to told me that he had lived in the area all his life. He said that the Mosque is actually built where his family used to buy their meat. The shop slaughtered animals including pigs on the very place Muslims now worship and meet!
The next group of people were three women (all non-white, with two children) who had come to join the SIOE demonstration because they wanted to do something to stop Sharia coming to this country. But like me they could not find the group. One of the women expressed her anger at what she saw as a violation of freedom to protest and freedom of speech. Another woman, whose grandparents were Muslims and whose Mother had been a Muslim, wondered when will English people do something about the danger of Sharia, or ‘will they let it grow and grow until it is too late.’ An encounter with reporters from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation proved problematic. They wanted to talk to someone who was actually there in support of SIOE. I offered to speak for the radio. But then another swarm occurred, and thinking something more worthy was going to happen, they quickly said good-bye and followed the swarm.
Oddly, I then found myself in between two groups of police in an empty space, with the anti-demo demonstrators on the other side of the police cordons. On my left, the anti-demo demonstrators decided to rejoin the other group and the police allowed them to walk through their ranks. They shouted Allah u Akbar, a few had their faces covered, some did the Nazi salute, and a reporter was roughed up a bit for I do not know what, with camera equipment thrown to the ground.
Anti-demo demonstrators were packed in front of the Mosque, closing off the street. People stood on top of the bus stop, a few had the black flag with Arabic writing on it. Then the swarm started again, this time in yet another direction! They seemed to try to enter the town hall. From their number I saw someone hurtle a piece of metal, which if it had hit someone in the head could have killed.
My next chat was with an older man on a bicycle. He explained that earlier in the day he had happen to be walking in the same direction with a group of young men, who were healthy strong and confident, who were walking to the Mosque for the demo. When they got to the bus stop they suddenly sensed danger, changed their direction and ran off. They were being chased by the swarm. Climbing barriers, railings and stairs a few left their shoes behind. It was probably this group of men who I saw earlier when I exited the station. How they were ‘spotted’ or felt in danger the man did not know, but a group of young white men would be unusual among these anti-demo demonstrators.
My next encounter was with the leader of Harrow Council, David Ashton. I happened to be right next to the television crews who wanted to hear his take on the day’s events. He felt that the trouble was caused by outsiders. The community have good relations with the mosque and vice versa. He definitely had a negative take on the anti-demo demonstrators. In between interviews I asked him what he thought of SIOE. He said there are extreme views and there are extremists. Those with extreme views allow for discussion and debate but the extremists do not allow that. I asked him if he supported the right of SIOE to demonstrate as they had planed and reminded him that the police had approved of it. He agreed and that in this society the police had powers to stop marches but not really to stop people from standing some place to express their opinion and that that freedom is permitted in our society. I asked him if he would therefore agree that the police failed in their duty to protect the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. He said he would not answer my question. I then asked him to convey my opinion to the local police and to central government that the police had indeed failed to protect the citizens who wanted to engage in lawful activity. He said he would take that message back to them.
After taking more pictures I spoke to a few more people and made my way back to the station. I noticed broken eggs in black bags on the pavement and figured that they were part of the armoury of the anti-demo demonstrators.
With the sun going down in the west, many Muslims were prostrating towards Mecca, no doubt thanking Allah for this small victory over the kaffir and the silencing of any public criticisms of Islam.