The Union Exec has called for students to “come together” against racism ahead of a student rally this weekend, organised in opposition to an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration in Leeds.
On Saturday, the EDL will hold a protest against a community centre planned by the UK Islamic Mission, in Moortown.
The group state that they aim to stop their estate from “becoming another Muslim area”, and claim that Islamic residents are trying to “colonise” the area.
The Exec committee collectively states: “Wherever groups like the EDL congregate, we should come together to show that we do not want our communities to be undermined by racism and hate”.
The Leeds Students Unite Against Fascism (LUAF) society is holding a peaceful “celebrate and defend multicultural Leeds” rally on the same day.
David Lewzey, a member of LUAF, said they are hoping for a turnout of 50 to 100 students.
He said: “It’s important that we aren’t complacent about this at our University. Often we see Uni as a safe-haven from racism and it’s not. At Liverpool Uni there is an EDL student group that has recently formed.”
The Leeds Union Islamic society said:
“The EDL’s targeting of this venture highlights a dangerous presence of Islamophobia. They are somehow trying to convince people that British Muslims transforming a failed pub into community facilities (with their own funds) is an attack on Britain. As Britons, we disagree.”
The words “a mosque” were graffitied onto the side of the building in February. This followed the purchase of the site by the UK Islamic Mission, who applied for planning permission to develop the former pub into a public gym, IT suite, library, training facilities and a prayer room for up to 70 worshippers.
Over 400 letters of complaint from local residents were sent to the Council in response to the plans.
David Lewzey added: “There are two different issues in the area. There is the community centre that has been formed, and the residents don’t feel involved in the creating of it. But the fascist thing is a separate thing – they are opposing the centre on very racist grounds.”
The Exec were keen to add: “We urge all attendees of Saturday’s counter-demonstration, whether students or not, to look after each other and stay safe.”
Meg Ingham, an LUAF member, said: “It is important to stress that this is a peaceful rally. We don’t intend for, nor want clashes with the EDL.”
LUAF rally-goers will assemble at the Parkinson steps at 10.30 on Saturday.
Words: Ellie Parkes
Photo: Yorkshire Post