The Daily Telegraph
Unrest could engulf UK, warn faith leaders
Joint call for calm comes after days of clashes between Muslims and Hindus in Midlands
‘It’s crazy. It’s going everywhere. I can’t bring myself to say it will come to London because we want to stop it somehow’
CLASHES between Muslims and Hindus threaten to “spread all over Britain”, faith leaders have warned, after 100 protesters descended on a Hindu temple.
A crowd of Muslim demonstrators reportedly threw fireworks and missiles at police in the West Midlands town of Smethwick on Tuesday night as the disorder seen in Leicester over the weekend appeared to spread across the middle of the country.
Last night, faith leaders issued a warning that the unrest, apparently fuelled by disinformation on social media, “will spread all over Britain”.
Police made 47 arrests in Leicester last weekend for offences including making threats to kill, possession of a firearm and affray. Some linked the violence to a “country-based dispute” after India beat Pakistan in an Asia Cup cricket match in Dubai on Aug 28.
The widespread disorder, involving mainly young men from sections of the Muslim and Hindu communities, erupted in Smethwick when a crowd gathered outside Durga Bhawan Temple. Footage showed the masked and hooded men shouting “Allahu akbar”, with dozens of officers deployed to the area in riot gear in response. No injuries were reported. An 18-year-old has since been arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife.
Yesterday afternoon, there continued to be a large police presence outside the mosque in anticipation of further trouble.
Police later carried out searches of 10-15 strong groups of youths in the area around the Hindu centre, seizing fireworks and other objects from several individuals, in what officers described as a “search and disperse” operation. Other officers used number plate recognition technology in an attempt to spot cars that may have been in the vicinity of the centre during Tuesday evening’s disturbances.
West Midlands Police have said they will continue to monitor the situation locally and across the region.
Hindu Council UK told The Daily Telegraph: “Religious leaders have continued to call for calm but the youths… It’s very difficult. You can’t control them. It’s crazy. It’s going everywhere. I can’t bring myself to say that it will come to London because we want to stop it somehow.”
The clashes in Leicester have allegedly been fuelled by disinformation on social media. Earlier this month, false claims about the attempted kidnap of a Muslim teenage girl by Hindu men – an incident police have since said “did not take place” – were circulated as well as unfounded claims of attacks on mosques.
It has been reported that events in India have also had an impact on the tensions on UK soil. Conflict between parts of the Hindu and Muslim communities in India is common, and prime minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for Islamophobia, the rise of Hindu nationalism and an increase in violent incidents against Muslims.
On Saturday, a group of young Hindu men were filmed marching through Green Lane Road, Leicester, where there are several Muslim-owned businesses. Some were filmed shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, a religious chant that has been co-opted by far-right Hindu nationalist groups in India.
Other videos shared online depicted Muslim men retaliating, including bottles being thrown and a man clothed all in black climbing a Hindu temple and removing its saffron flag as crowds cheered.
Last night, after police confirmed that the clashes had been fuelled by young people travelling from other cities, religious leaders from the Hindu and Sikh communities held crisis talks amid fears the unrest would continue to spread.