27 May 2013
A potentially volatile situation was defused early last week when York Muslims met English Defence League (EDL) protestors with tea and custard creams, leading to a constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual rejection of violent extremism. The Muslim Council of Britain, one of the country’s largest Muslim groups, has since come out in support of the strategy.
Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said of the dialogue: “Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong.”
Though the EDL protest outside the York mosque was comparatively small, only about 6 people, the non-violent resolution of the situation, constituted on the basis of shared cultural preferences (tea and sweets) and a common rejection of extremism, is being heralded as a model for future efforts to engage in dialogue with local communities by the Muslim Council of Britain. A statement on the group’s website encourages Muslims to seek common ground with fellow Britons and to open mosque doors to the public in a spirit of openness.
The events in York came as the EDL launched a number of protests across the country in response to the Woolwich attack on Drummer Lee Rigby, which the EDL has blamed on Islam. Many Muslim leaders have condemned the actions of the Woolwich attackers as un-Islamic, including Ismail Miah, leader of the York mosque, who said: “What they’ve done in London is for their own reasons but there’s no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view.”