Britain First, which is believed to be a protestant far right group with its roots in Northern Ireland and Scotland visited 10 of the city’s mosques on Saturday, 10 May handing out army bibles accusing community elders of failing to stop grooming gangs and urging worshippers to convert to Christianity. The party is structured like a paramilitary organisation, with battalions representing different regions.
Britain First went on to post images and a video of themselves on Facebook confronting worshippers at the mosque and members of the Asian community.
The group’s founders severed links with the British National Party in 2010 establishing the new organisation six months later. It is contesting seats in the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales.
Since the incident, Deputy Leader of Bradford Council, Imran Hussain has been meeting with senior police officers and officials from the Council for Mosques to take action on this issue.
Imran Hussain said “As a Muslim I feel more than insulted by the actions of these cowards. This group of fascist and racist thugs can’t simply barge into our Masjid’s to spread fear and hatred. Masjid’s and worshippers have a right to be protected and feel safe.
“It’s unacceptable that there is no law specifically to protect places of worship and I have written to the Home Secretary to demand a change in the law. Masjid’s and worshippers have an absolute
right to be protected and feel safe and the law MUST reflect this” he continued.
In statement George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, said he had also written to Theresa May
He said “I have written to the home secretary slating her failure, and that of her department, in dealing with this and calling on her to urgently come to grips with it.”
He demanded that the home secretary, Theresa May, take action to reassure the community and ban Britain First, which he called “a racist, neo-fascist gang of fanatics”.
Galloway said: “Theresa May should have been on the first train to Bradford, trailing officials and reassuring the Muslim community that not only would the perpetrators be punished but that she would ensure that an outrage like this never occurs again. Instead, a stony silence.
In a joint statement David Green, the leader of Bradford council, Jeanette Sunderland, leader of Liberal Democrats and Glen Miller, Leader of Conservative said: “We stand together to condemn strongly this outrageous behaviour by outside agitators in some mosques over the weekend … All houses of worship should be treated with respect by all members of every community, regardless of their faith or culture. Anybody who enters any house of worship must abide by the rules of that religion.
“An attack on any house of worship is an attack on everyone and the whole of Bradford district. We will not tolerate any place of worship being disrupted in an aggressive way and subject to disrespect.”
No mosques had been “desecrated” and all places of worship in the city were safe, they said. Britain First caused further controversy after using “Remember Lee Rigby” as their party slogan, themselves on ballot papers.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has praised Bradford’s Muslim community for how it has handled a number of visits from a far right group over the weekend.
Eric Pickles, a former leader of Bradford Council, and Stephen Williams, under secretary of state responsible for community cohesion, recently met with David Ward, MP for Bradford East and Bradford Council of Mosques to discuss reaction to far right activity in Bradford.
David Ward said “Local people from all communities have been great. It just goes to show that Bradford is a cohesive and strong community that will not be intimidated or bullied by the far right groups whose sole purpose is to cause trouble. They will not succeed in Bradford.“Such incitement, intimidation and planned community unrest cannot be allowed to go unpunished and we would welcome moves to understand what changes need to be made to the law in order to protect community areas from being targeted by any extremist group seeking to incite a violent reaction.”
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said “The reaction of Bradford’s Muslim citizens was a commendable example of British reasonableness. In our country everyone should feel free to worship without fear of harassment or interruption. Freedom of worship is a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty that we should defend.”
Communities Minister Stephen Williams MP said “These were the deliberate and provocative actions of thugs and we utterly condemn the invasion of any Mosque as disrespectful and hateful. We will support faith organisations and Council of Mosques to take the right security precautions and ensure people in Bradford feel safe.