Saturday, 29 December 2012

Pig's head left outside muslim centre - Leicester

Three people have been arrested after a pig's head was left outside a community centre used for prayers by Muslims in an area of Leicester that has seen heightened far-right activity in recent months.
The head of the pig, which is offensive to Muslims who consider the animal unclean and are forbidden from eating pork, was discovered by worshippers from the As Salaam group at the Thurnby Lodge centre at 7.30am on Boxing Day. A 40-year-old woman and two men, aged 37 and 46, were arrested on Wednesday.
The incident came amid tension over the group's plans to open an Islamic centre in a disused Scout hut neighbouring the community centre. There have been months of protests, including involvement by the English Defence League and the British National party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, visited the area in August.
The As Salaam imam Mohammed Lockhat told the Guardian that the incident had only increased the group's commitment to stay: "We were shocked and saddened by this development. It's deeply discriminating and religiously offensive … Every single day we have got people standing outside, protesters hurling insults, racist abuse. We weren't expecting this to happen but it was only a matter of time."
As Salaam was initially given the go-ahead for the hut, which the Scouts no longer use, last year. It said it planned to provide food-sharing services, and drug and alcohol advice and education.
But some residents complained that the hut should be available for the wider community. Protests were held against As Salaam, and a group calling itself the Committee for the Forgotten Estates of Thurnby Lodge and Netherhall handed a petition with 1,500 signatures opposing the plans to the city council. As a result, earlier this month, the council put As Salaam's plans out for consultation and said a decision would be made in January.
Lockhat said the Islamic community's work in the hut would be aimed at improving life for everyone and that Thurnby Lodge centre would still be available for the local community.
He also said, despite denials by protesters, that opposition has been driven by far-right groups. The petition was handed in by self-proclaimed Leicester EDL member Chris Hopewell and Griffin attended a protest to express his support for opponents of the plans.
The campaign against As Salaam has not just affected Muslims, with members of the bingo club at Thurnby Lodge complaining of intimidation. Lockhat said protesters shouted "traitors" at people in their 70s and 80s. Leicestershire police said nine people had been arrested in connection with the protests in recent months.
"We are very, very peaceful … We are not here to take over anyone's land," he said. "We work in the community."
Superintendent Mark Newcombe said: "The only people using the community centre on Wednesday were from a local Muslim group and it's easy to draw the conclusion that the pig's head was meant for them, and is the reason we believe this to be religiously motivated … We have no tolerance for discrimination in Leicester, be that racially or religiously motivated, and we want members of the public to help us do all we can to find those responsible and bring them to justice."


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