Far-right extremist group EDL held a rally in Birmingham, UK, which has the highest population of Muslims in the country, in protest of what they called a “continued increase of Islamic terrorism”. Officials at Birmingham Central Mosque found the best way to respond.
On the same day of the rally, the mosque held an open-day “best of British” tea party. Over 100 guests participated, many from the non-Muslim community in Birmingham, as well as MPs.
Birmingham Central Mosque’s chairman Muhammed Afzal said local people would remain united irrespective of their religion or race.
He had this to say: “Our mosque is open to all and we thought the best response to the demonstrations would be to invite our neighbours round for a cup of tea” he said, ahead of the event. Later on Facebook, he added, “When the English Defence League is protesting and trying to divide the community, we are holding this party just to prove to them that Birmingham is a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith community. We are all united and they will not be able to divide us and create hatred”.
Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson takes a selfie with Makhdoom Ahmad Chisti during a ‘best of British’ tea party ;)
— Fil (@attackformation) April 10, 2017
Among the attendees were Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, and local Labour MP Liam Byrne. Byrne, in a heartfelt speech, said, “Today this is how we protest – by celebrating the quiet miracle of a normal life and the things that we love most about our city and about our country. Getting together as friends, getting together as neighbours, breaking a bit of Victoria sponge and having a cup of tea. That is a potent, powerful message that we will send to those who seek to divide us.”
David Jamieson said the EDL “are spreading a message of hatred”.
— Claire Stoneman (@stoneman_claire) April 8, 2017
Attendees took to social media to praise the event, with the social media community praising the message of peace and tolerance put forward by the event, in contrast to the message of hate preached by the EDL.
— Tent of Olives (@TMno2hate) April 8, 2017
Our mosques need to think outside of the box more often and open their doors regularly to promote dialogue and understanding. It’s the only way we can beat ignorance and hate.