|Local paper, Leicester Mercury, reports on ongoing protests against plans by the Al-Salaam Trust to convert a disused Scouts Hut into an Islamic community centre.|
The protests have attracted the attentions of the BNP with leader, Nick Griffin, travelling to Leicester to hijack local protests.
From the Leicester Mercury:
“[H]undreds of people have been gathering in Thurncourt Road, on Leicester's Thurnby Lodge estate, for some weeks now to protest against an Islamic charity's plan to turn a disused Scout hut into a community centre and prayer room.
“On Friday, the number of people taking part swelled towards the 400 mark – with about 50 police officers there to oversee it.
“The building at the heart of this is the Scout hut in Nursery Road.
“The Scout Association paid for the hut to be built in 1974 and it was a busy base for the movement for almost 30 years.
“However, the decision to close it was taken 10 years ago.
“Peter Hardy, the association's deputy district commissioner, said: "Unfortunately, the leaders who had given great service to the Thurnby Lodge group for many years decided to step down. We tried to find new leaders in the community but there was no response."
“After its closure in May 2002, the building lay all but unused, apart from some occasional use by other groups.
“It became the centre of the current dispute earlier this year when it became apparent that a charity, the As-Salaam Trust, had stepped forward and wanted to turn it into a community centre.
“The trust indicated last week that it would open the centre to the wider community and indicated it would consider reviving the Scout group if there was sufficient local support.
“Its members have been meeting at the neighbouring community centre in Thurncourt Road for the past two and a half years. Those meetings have been the focus of the recent protests – which have coincided with the holy month of Ramadan. Residents involved in the protests – some of which have lasted long into the night – insist their argument is with the city council, not the trust.
“They believe local people's suggestions for other uses of the building – including a combination of boxing club, gym and dance studio – have not been taken seriously.
“City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and his team say they are talking to the people behind that proposal and hope to find a suitable venue for it in the same area.
“The council said it contacted 100 community groups who previously said they needed a new base, to tell them the building could be available. As-Salaam came forward at that point.
“The protesters also believe the proposed community centre would bring extra traffic to the area, particularly as it is in a narrow road which is also a bus route.
“The future of the Scout hut was to be discussed at the area's regular ward meeting last month. So many people turned up that the meeting was abandoned because it would have breached the building's capacity.
“The abandonment of the meeting and the subsequent decision to cancel a ward councillors' surgery a few weeks later angered people.
“Protest organisers have told the Leicester Mercury they do not welcome the attentions of outside groups such as the British National Party and the English Defence League.
“BNP leader Nick Griffin made an impromptu appearance on Friday evening and, reportedly, again yesterday morning. According to eyewitnesses he was greeted with indifference.
“Another issue which has arisen is that unfounded rumours have begun circulating through the internet. These include a claim that the neighbouring Anglican Christ Church had been asked to cover its cross for fear of offending Muslims.
“Canon David Monteith, Acting Archdeacon of Leicester, said: "There is no truth at all in the malicious rumour that the church was asked to cover the cross. The information is totally unfounded."”
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