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Ban the EDL march in Tower Hamlets

On Saturday I initiated an advert in the Guardian newspaper calling on the Home Secretary to ban the English Defence Leagues plan to march in Tower Hamlets on September 3.

I did so, in conjunction with community, faith, trade union and business leaders in order to send a loud message; there is no place for hate in Tower Hamlets.

Since being elected Mayor one of my saddest responsibilities was to visit the Norwegian Embassy to offer condolences in the wake of their recent atrocity.

The experience shook and upset me.

It left me thinking if hate could give rise to such extremism there, it could do likewise here. And hate is in the air.

The murderous actions of Anders Breivik cannot be understood outside a context in which anti-Muslim hate has come to pollute political discourse.

Pandering to the worst in people has helped give succor to those who wish to vent violent, extremist agendas.

I was not surprised that the man responsible for the mass slaughter of dozens of Norwegian teenagers boasted about his EDL friends on Facebook. He was a fan, because he saw the EDL as fellow travellers, waging the same paranoid struggle as he was against a supposed Islamic threat to our way of life.

But it is not just the EDL and cohorts to blame for a worrying rise of hate and intolerance across Europe; our mainstream parties also carry responsibility.

Ex-Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland is right to say Europe ‘s political leaders have been ‘playing with fire’ in the rhetoric they use when discussing multiculturalism.

While the threat of the EDL is the biggest threat to community cohesion that we face in Tower Hamlets, it is not the only one.

Extremist Muslim groups, minuscule in size but given inordinate media exposure, plight a perception of our borough.

Following on from recent media stories about homophobic stickers, Sharia Law Zone stickers have appeared on our lampposts. And like before the media have pick to run with lurid headlines about the “Tower Hamlets Taliban”.

Now, I can certainly empathize with those who think that a society with less alcohol and gambling, and one free of porn and prostitution, would be a better place for all of us. And lots of non-Muslims would too.

But I have no sympathy for are those who seek to impose their version of morality on anyone else.

As a Muslim, I find it simply un-Islamic.  As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said; there is no compulsion in religion.

One of the things that is most precious about our country is our deep commitment to civil liberties and freedom of choice.

As long as people act within the law, British people have a “live and let live attitude”. We are very tolerant and accepting to the life styles, cultures, and beliefs of others.

There is no place in Britain where those principles are more embedded than  London, and there is no part of  London  which embodies  multiculturalism more than Tower Hamlets.

We are One Tower Hamlets; there is no place for hate against people on the basis of sexual orientation, racial identity or religious identity in our borough.

That’s the way we like it. And that’s the way we intend to keep it.

Sign the petition calling on the Home Secretary to ban this march.

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