A petition has been set up in protest at a far right group compared to the 1930s Black Shirts which paid unannounced visits to Gillingham mosques. The signature list has so far been signed by Cllr Vince Maple and representatives from Unison, The Green Party and Mid Kent College. John Wilson, Manager at Britain First said “It’s very undemocratic of them set up a petition against us.”
Britain First activists oppose plans for a new mosque which is awaiting approval from Medway Council. The application is for a place of worship in Canterbury Street and is proposed for Croneens car park next to Gillingham rail station. The plans were due to be presented to the planning committee this month but have been delayed.
Two weeks ago, BF representatives visited Nasir Mosque in Richmond Road, Gillingham, and the Jamia Mosque in Canterbury Street, Gillingham, threatening to begin an anti-mosque campaign. Some of the reasons stated for opposing the mosque were that the segregation of men and women was against British values and de-valued women.
After the “visits” to the mosques from Britain First, Ukip reacted by sending a representative, Mark Hans, to express solidarity. Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson said: “I whole heartedly support the petition against Britain First; they’re a dangerous group who need to be looked into. It’s the Black Shirts of the 1930s all over again. It’s just the same thing again, our representative went to meet with the local Iman when they were first visited by Britain First to show him solidarity, it’s a high immigrant area and we don’t want tensions.”
Mr. Anwar Khan, Community co-ordinator at Jamia Mosque said of the petition “We really appreciate the effort of the community to support us and have enjoyed the backing and support of many local politicians since we were visited by Britain First. They’ve really supported us throughout. The planning permission doesn’t inconvenience anyone; the council will be building a new car park to replace the one we want to build on.”
He added: “The community has existed here for 40 years and we’ve never had any complaints. The public’s reaction to this is reminiscent of the terrible event of the Woolwich murder. At that time many people came to our place to give us support, we had people of every Christian denomination, Jews, Hindus, everyone. We operate an open door policy here, including to right wing parties. I think the community support we are getting really shows how hard everyone’s been working to build up trust in the local community. We all trust each other more and I’m quite frankly very happy about people’s reactions.”
In contrast John Wilson of Britain First said: “It’s not just Britain First who is working on this, people come to us, we don’t go around looking for things to do, local people, from that area, in their hundreds, contacted us and our own petition against the Mosque being built is signed into the thousands I believe. We’ve been working in a way that is typical of the work of a democratic liberal society. People setting up a petition against our petition is not only infantile, but smacks of fascism.”
See also “Britain First: Pressure building on far right for mosque ‘invasions'”, Maidstone and Medway News, 24 July 2014