BBC News reports that local residents and leaders of Millfield in Sunderland have criticised external groups who have been engaging in protests and stirring up trouble over a mosque in the area which recently received building approval by Sunderland City Council. The criticism comes after protests earlier this month involving far-right supporters campaigning against the mosque, as well as counter-demonstrations, turned violent.
From the BBC:
“Residents opposed to a mosque in Sunderland have accused far right groups and counter-demonstrators of bringing violence into their area.
“The Northern Patriotic Front is planning a rally on 17 November saying it wants to give locals a "voice".”
One local resident local told the BBC that many objections to the mosque were based on congestion and noise, not ethnicity or religion. She said that, "If the people of Millfield want to hold a peaceful demonstration that is fine by me, and that is what was planned last time, but it didn't happen."
Zaf Iqbal of the Pakistani Islamic Centre, which submitted the building application, said that the opposition protests have "stopped being about the mosque and the issue has become a tool for the far right to use to drum up support for whatever reasons they've got.”
The PIC’s application to the local council attracted 700 letters of objection according to the BBC report.
The protest planned against the mosque for the 17th November affirms the NF’s earlier pledge to hold demonstrations on a monthly basis. Simon Biggs, of the NF, defended the planned protest stating that, "Residents think they are being treated really shoddily and they don't think they have a voice.”
He added that "we are doing things with the local community and we will carry on doing demonstrations even if the mosque is built."
“Sunderland Mayor Iain Kay, who represents the Millfield ward, said neither far right groups not counter-demonstrators were welcome because of the potential for trouble.
“Sunderland city council leader, Councillor Paul Watson said the mosque plan was considered on merit and all legitimate objections were properly considered.
“He said conditions have been attached to address concerns about noise and car parking.”
Thirteen people were arrested during the protests earlier this month, resulting in two charges and eleven men being released on bail pending further inquires. Local blogger, John Scratcher, who witnessed the earlier protest wrote shortly afterwards that “very few of the protesters were actually from the Millfield area and the residents I spoke to did not appear to care whether a mosque was built or not…Half of the crowds looked like they had just turned up for a bit of a fight.”
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