A statement against the English Defence League’s demo in Preston next month has been backed by some of the biggest names in the city.
The post on Facebook claims the EDL will “express views which we consider to be hateful and divisive to all our communities”.
It was posted on the page Preston Unity ahead of the EDL’s proposed demonstration in Preston on February 20. The far right group describes Preston as ‘another creeping Sharia city’ and references claims in national newspapers that parts of Preston are ‘no-go’ area for non-Muslims.
The claims were dismissed at the time as ludicrous by police and faith groups in the city.
The statement was written by inter-faith activist Mohammed Ali Amla, who slammed the claims as sensationalist and damaging to the city, and Dr Anderson Jeremiah, founders of Christian Muslim Encounters.
It reads: “The people of Preston are saddened that the far right has chosen to come to our city to express views which we consider to be hateful and divisive to all our communities.
“As proud citizens of Preston we totally reject the bigoted views of the EDL and express our strong opposition to this proposed demonstration.
“We are confident that the vast majority of Prestonians want these people to stay away. Preston is a multicultural and multi-Faith city, with a proud history of tolerance, respect and community cohesiveness.
“We celebrate our unity and call on all to continue to foster good relations between our different communities.
“We invite all those who care for Preston to share this message on Twitter and Facebook and sign our message of solidarity with Prestonian’s opposing this unwanted presence on our Facebook page.”
The statement already has the support of more than 200 prominent people, including councillors, charity bosses and faith leaders.
Leader of Preston Council Coun Peter Rankin is one of those names. He said: “I feel very strongly about it. It’s very obvious to me that we have a very cohesive community and people coming from outside the city just to disrupt it are not welcome.
“These people only think about hating and are here to perpetrate lies about Preston.”
Clive Grunshaw, police and crime commissioner for Lancashire, said: “The EDL is coming to this city to foster division and discord and we are sending a strong message that Preston will not stand for this.
“The decision about whether to grant permission for any protest, and whether any conditions will be placed upon this, will remain an operational one for the Lancashire Police and ultimately the Home Secretary.”
Father Timothy Lipscomb, vicar of Preston, said: “I always pride myself on thinking Preston has a very strong and cohesive community and that we all mix with one another all the time.
“The last thing we want is the EDL coming to spoil what we are enjoying and promoting.”