Saturday, 22 September 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Hundreds in US film protest
Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of Leicester yesterday to protest at a controversial American film.
Roads were closed off as the protestors congregated outside the Central Mosque, in Conduit Street, at 2.30pm, to complain about the amateur film Innocence of Muslims.
The 400 protestors, many carrying placards, listened to imams from mosques throughout the city condemn the film at the peaceful 30-minute outdoor meeting.
The film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed has sparked unrest in many parts of the Muslim world over the past 10 days, and the deaths of at least 33 people, including the US ambassador to Libya, have been linked to the violence.
Much of the anger has been directed at the US government, even though the film was privately produced in the US and American officials have criticised it for insulting Muslims.
At yesterday's Leicester protest, Mahommed Machar, 24, of Evington, said: "I felt it was important for me to be here.
"I have come down to register my protest against this film and its message. The film is abusing the freedom of speech, not upholding it."
Mohammed Ayub, 43, of Evington, said it was vital to get across the message about non-violence.
He said: "This is the way to protest, not to resort to violence. You can tell by the numbers of people here today, the strength of feeling about this film here in the city of Leicester."
Maulana Shahid Raza OBE, head imam of the Islamic Centre, said the film had caused global unrest in the Muslim world.
He said: "The film is the worst possible violation of freedom of expression.
"We firmly believe that Prophet Mohammed always taught and practiced peace and tolerance and throughout his life he always upheld universal human values.
"To depict him as a violent extremist is disgusting and reprehensible.
"Muslims consider it a gross insult to the Prophet and we call upon all faith leaders to condemn this unjustified action and show their solidarity with the Muslim world in respect of safeguarding the honour and sanctity of all faiths and their founders."
Malik M Salim MBE, chairman of the Islamic Centre, appealed to the Muslim community to remain calm.
He said: "We would like to record the protest and wish to communicate to those extremists that the hatred of Islam through such movies would not harm the great personality of the Prophet or any aspect of Islam, but would only backfire on the people who spread venomous ideas."
Inspector Chris Cockerill, responsible for policing the event, said the protest had passed off peacefully.
He said: "We work closely with the Central Mosque and have done so concerning this event.
"It is part of our duty to ensure that people can take part in a peaceful protest and that is what we had here in Leicester."
Once the meeting was over, the road blocks were lifted.

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