Leicester unrest between Hindus and Muslims spreads to Birmingham

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Violence between Muslims and Hindus spread from Leicester to Birmingham last night after 200 masked men gathered outside a Hindu temple to protest against a planned event.

Footage from Smethwick shows police on the scene as a large group of masked and hooded young men gathered at the Durga Bhawan Hindu temple, with witnesses claiming bottles and firecrackers were thrown.

Police were seen with riot helmets and shields confronting the crowd, believed to be predominantly Muslim men, and attempting to move them away from the temple while protesters climbed the surrounding boundary fence.

The scenes echoed those seen in Leicester just days earlier where sectarian clashes took place over Saturday and Sunday, with Leicestershire Police arresting 47 people, as tensions boiled over following a recent cricket match between India and Pakistan.

Footage of violence breaking out after the cricket match on August 28 was shared widely on social media and police have since asserted the incident was not initially along religious lines.

But the people of Leicester say the relationship between the two communities has been strained for months, instead labelling the cricket match as a ‘trigger’ for the latest bout of disorder.

Community leaders in Leicester have appealed for calm after claiming outsiders were coming to the city to sow disorder by spreading false information to stir up religious tension.

Leicestershire Police said they are investigating attacks on both communities, including assaults on Muslim men and the egging of a Hindu family’s home.

But not all incidents reported or shared online have been found to be truthful. Claims a Muslim girl had been kidnapped by Hindu men in Leicester were disproved by police, while mosque leaders disputed claims that Hindus had stormed the building and shouted at people who were praying, according to the Times. 

Pictured: Violence between Muslims and Hindus spread from Leicester to Birmingham last night after 200 masked young men believed to be Muslims gathered outside a Hindu temple to protest against an event which had been cancelled

Pictured: Violence between Muslims and Hindus spread from Leicester to Birmingham last night after 200 masked young men believed to be Muslims gathered outside a Hindu temple to protest against an event which had been cancelled

After being informed of the planned protest last night, it is understood the temple in Smethwick cancelled the event where a controversial speaker had been due to address members.

But the protest still went ahead with West Midlands Police tweeting they were aware of the event and were working with faith leaders and others to monitor the situation.

A spokesman added: ‘We always seek to find the right balance between the rights of protesters and those of local residents and businesses, while working to minimise serious disruption to communities.

‘We have a long history of facilitating peaceful protest, and upholding the right to protest, while balancing it with the rights of others to keep the public safe, prevent crime and disorder.’ 

Local councillor Ahmad Bostan condemned the scenes, writing: ‘The despicable scenes witnessed in Smethwick tonight do not represent the harmonious rich diversity of our town and those who came with ill intentions will be dealt with by the law.

‘Our communities stand together against such bigotry and the peddlers of hate are not welcome here.’ 

Ahead of the protest, temple leaders claimed ‘false allegations’ had been spread in a ‘plot to create some situation’, according to Birmingham World.

A member of the committee told the outlet: ‘We have informed the police. We were told about the protest by the Chair of the Imam group in Sandwell.

‘People are trying to create a situation like Leicester here. There have never been any issues here between communities so far and we are not a BJP/RSS centre.’

Police closed the road and moved protesters across to the other side away from the temple where projectiles were thrown

Police closed the road and moved protesters across to the other side away from the temple where projectiles were thrown

Police closed the road and moved protesters across to the other side away from the temple where projectiles were thrown

Police on scene at a protest outside a Hindu temple in Smethwick

Police on scene at a protest outside a Hindu temple in Smethwick

Police on scene at a protest outside a Hindu temple in Smethwick

Police on scene at a protest outside a Hindu temple in Smethwick

Pictured: Police on scene at a protest outside a Hindu temple in Smethwick on Tuesday where a large crowd gathered

RSS refers to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an all-male Hindu nationalist volunteer group, often described as a paramilitary organisation while BJP refers to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling political party in India which has been accused of passing policies and pursuing a religiously divisive agenda.

Other video filmed in Smethwick last night showed a masked man telling the camera that any Hindus who supported the RSS or BJP were ‘not welcome in Birmingham or Leicester’, adding: ‘You’re not welcome anywhere in the UK.’ 

There have been claims that recent Hindu migrants to the city of Leicester hold Indian nationalist views.

Ahead of the protest in Birmingham, Muslim religious leader Nasir Akhtar called for peace and urged people to stay home and not attend the protest after discussions between religious leaders meant the event was cancelled.

He urged people to verify and check information they received and said as soon as the temple became aware of the speaker’s controversial background, the event was cancelled. 

In the aftermath of the protest, religious leaders from all faiths pledged solidarity and unity after coming together and standing in unity during the unrest last night.

Pictured: Representatives from multiple faiths stood outside the temple during the protest last night as an act of solidarity

Pictured: Representatives from multiple faiths stood outside the temple during the protest last night as an act of solidarity

Pictured: Representatives from multiple faiths stood outside the temple during the protest last night as an act of solidarity

Police drew their batons to move the masked mob away from the fences surrounding the temple as members stood inside

Police drew their batons to move the masked mob away from the fences surrounding the temple as members stood inside

Police drew their batons to move the masked mob away from the fences surrounding the temple as members stood inside

West Midlands Police say a man was arrested for possessing an offensive weapon during the protest and no one was injured

West Midlands Police say a man was arrested for possessing an offensive weapon during the protest and no one was injured

West Midlands Police say a man was arrested for possessing an offensive weapon during the protest and no one was injured

Temple trustee Ash Kumar praised the multi-faith support and the work of the police, telling the Birmingham Mail: ‘We are very grateful to the police who kept us safe and also to other faith leaders who remained on our premises to show a united front. We will now keep in regular touch with the local multi-faith forum, we recognise with hindsight we could have done things differently.’

Nasir Akhtar, head imam of the Smethwick based Abrahamic Foundation, said: ‘We were keen to stand with them to show solidarity, while also speaking with protestors to hear their viewpoints and encourage a dialogue.

‘I have sympathy with many of those who were upset and who came out – I too was hurt by the invitation. Some did not accept the trustees were ignorant of the controversy around her. But the way forward is through talking and coming together, not sowing division.’

It comes as the second man sentenced in connection to violence in Leicester said he was ‘influenced by social media’, a court heard.

Adam Yusuf, 21, of Leicester, received a suspended sentence after admitting possessing a knife at a march on Sunday.

Leicester Magistrates’ Court heard Yusuf, who is from the city, had told the probation service he had been ‘influenced by social media’ in relation to events taking place near where he lived and was ‘upset’.

He was sentenced to a year in prison, suspended for 18 months with magistrates informing him his behaviour ‘brings shame’ on the city and would ‘not be tolerated’. 

This weekend, police officers were diverted from the Queen‘s funeral preparations in London to deal with the unrest which erupted in Leicester on Saturday night and continued into Sunday.

So far, one man from Leicester has been jailed for his role in the incident but police have confirmed that a number of those arrested were from outside the city.

Amos Noronha, 20, was sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon in connection with the violence but no further details of his crime were released. 

Noronha was one of 47 people arrested across the weekend after the clashes which resulted in 16 officers being injured.

Those arrested stand accused of an array of offences including affray, assault, possession of weapons and violent disorder. 

Some in the area had linked the violence to a cricket match between India and Pakistan but community leaders have been adamant that tensions predated that weekend. 

Footage of violence breaking out after the cricket match on August 28 was shared widely on social media and police have since asserted the incident was not initially along religious lines.

This clip showed masked men walking into east Leicester after tensions spilled over following a cricket match last month

This clip showed masked men walking into east Leicester after tensions spilled over following a cricket match last month

This clip showed masked men walking into east Leicester after tensions spilled over following a cricket match last month

Temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon for Leicestershire Police said that police officers who had been deployed to the capital had been sent back to the east Midlands city to help with the violent clashes in the east part of the city at the weekend

Temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon for Leicestershire Police said that police officers who had been deployed to the capital had been sent back to the east Midlands city to help with the violent clashes in the east part of the city at the weekend

Temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon for Leicestershire Police said that police officers who had been deployed to the capital had been sent back to the east Midlands city to help with the violent clashes in the east part of the city at the weekend

But the people of Leicester say the relationship between the two communities has been strained for months, instead labelling the cricket match as a ‘trigger’ for the latest bout of disorder.

Dharmesh Lakhani, who has lived in the city for more than 50 years and works with local mosques, says he feels it was outside influences that inflamed the situation.

Religious leaders unite: ‘We are saddened and heartbroken to see the eruption of tension and violence’

In their joint statement today, the Jame Mosque and Iskcon Hindu temple told those inciting violence and hatred: ‘We will not let you succeed.’ 

The statement read: ‘We, the family of Leicester, stand in front of you not only as Hindus and Muslims but as brothers and sisters. 

‘Our two faiths have lived harmoniously in the wonderful city for over half a century.’

Delivered on the steps of the Mosque by the Hindu leader Pradyumna Pradipgajjar, the statement emphasised the struggles both communities had battled to make the East Midland’s city their home.

It read: ‘We arrived in this city together. We face the same challenges together; we fought off racist haters together and collectively made this city a beacon of diversity and community cohesion.

‘That is why we are saddened and heartbroken to see the eruption of tension and violence. Physical attacks on innocent individuals and unwarranted damage to property are not part of a decent society and, indeed, not part of our faiths.

‘What we have seen is not what we’re about. We together call upon the immediate cessation of provocation and violence both in thought and behaviour. We together call upon the inciters of hatred to leave our city alone.

‘We are a strong family, we will work together to resolve whatever concern may arise – we do not need to call up any assistance from outside our city. Leicester has no place for any foreign extremist ideology that causes division.

‘Our message to anyone that sows disharmony between us is clear ‘we will not let you succeed’.

‘We ask all to respect the sanctity of religious places, both mosques and mandirs [Hindu temple] alike – whether provocation with loud music, flag bearing, derogatory chants or physical attacks against the fabric of worship. This is not acceptable nor upheld by our faiths.

‘As with all families, we will be having honest and uncomfortable conversations in addressing the issues, but we are confident that with our faith in God and, indeed, faith in each other, we will come out of this even stronger.

‘We’re One Family.’      

He told BBC R4’s Today programme yesterday: ‘It’s been brewing slowly, slowly, slowly, and what happened at cricket acted as a trigger.

‘Now my personal feeling is that if it was just people from Leicester, things would have calmed down.

‘I feel there’s outside influences here and they’re not welcome. We really need just the people of Leicester, the Hindu organisations, the Muslim organisations, our authorities, the police and our local council and we could sort this out straight away.’ 

Yesterday, leaders of Leicester’s Hindu and Muslim communities made an impassioned plea for calm.

In a joint statement, leaders from the Jame Mosque and Iskcon Hindu temple stressed the close bonds of friendship between the two faiths and called for an immediate end to the ‘provocation and violence’.

The statement read: ‘We, the family of Leicester, stand in front of you not only as Hindus and Muslims but as brothers and sisters. 

‘Our two faiths have lived harmoniously in the wonderful city for over half a century.’

Delivered on the steps of the Mosque by the Hindu leader Pradyumna Pradipgajjar, the statement emphasised the struggles both communities had battled to make the East Midland’s city their home.

It read: ‘We arrived in this city together. We face the same challenges together; we fought off racist haters together and collectively made this city a beacon of diversity and community cohesion.’

The leaders said they were ‘saddened and heartbroken’ to see the eruption of violence and tension between the two communities.

They added: ‘We are a strong family, we will work together to resolve whatever concern may arise – we do not need to call up any assistance from outside our city. Leicester has no place for any foreign extremist ideology that causes division.

‘Our message to anyone that sows disharmony between us is clear ‘we will not let you succeed’.

‘We ask all to respect the sanctity of religious places, both mosques and mandirs [Hindu temple] alike – whether provocation with loud music, flag bearing, derogatory chants or physical attacks against the fabric of worship. This is not acceptable nor upheld by our faiths.

‘As with all families, we will be having honest and uncomfortable conversations in addressing the issues, but we are confident that with our faith in God and, indeed, faith in each other, we will come out of this even stronger.

‘We’re One Family.’

Leicester’s troubles have also taken on an international dimension.

The High Commission of India and, on Tuesday, the Pakistan High Commission have both issued statements, condemning violence against the Hindu and Muslim communities, respectively. 

Videos from the scene at the weekend showed a group of masked men march through Leicester with one seen armed with a 2×4 foot piece of wood.

On Sunday, there were ugly scenes across the east of the city, which began after police received reports of an unauthorised protest involving up to 200 people marching towards Highfields.

Leicestershire Police said a number of resources were provided to them, with extra officers deployed from the West Midlands, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Horses from Thames Valley Police were also deployed in the city, the force added.

Police said the extra assistance was provided through the normal mutual aid process and some officers were diverted from going to London to help.

All available local officers were sent to the scene immediately in an attempt to engage with the crowd, while extra officers were called in. But the protesters continued their march before the extra officers arrived.

A clip shared online showed a similar police division, reportedly between Hindus and Muslims

A clip shared online showed a similar police division, reportedly between Hindus and Muslims

A clip shared online showed a similar police division, reportedly between Hindus and Muslims

An opposing group then gathered. Police issued a dispersal order, but several other incidents of violence and disorder then broke out across the east of the city.

Footage has since emerged of police wielding batons shouting at people to get back as bottles were thrown, narrowly missing officers.

Video of fights breaking out on the streets surfaced Sunday with police breaking up the two groups – just hours after two arrests were made when disturbances broke out at an unplanned protest on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning.

Fights and scuffles broke out, cars were damaged and one man was filmed reportedly tearing down a flag outside a Hindu temple in Belgrave Road.

The belief that the flames of sectarian tension were being fanned by outsiders and those spreading misinformation online were echoed by the region’s MPs. 

Community speaks out: ‘When there’s violence, we come together and tell them it won’t be tolerated in Leicester’ 

People in the areas of Leicester affected by recent violence have spoken of their shock and disappointment – but also their hopes the disorder will soon come to an end.

Leicestershire Police had a busy time on Saturday and Sunday nights, policing groups of people gathering in city neighbourhoods. The incidents led to arrests and the police calling for calm.

The police operation is ongoing in the east of Leicester and officers were out in force last night to deal with any further incidents. But for people living in the areas affected, there is shock, sadness and hope it will soon all be over.

A Muslim business owner in the Spinney Hills area, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I’ve lived here since I was four and we’ve never had this kind of problem before between faiths. I have Hindu customers and Hindu friends – we spend time together and play cricket together.

‘When there’s violence we come together, with the police, and tell them it won’t be tolerated in Leicester. All my Hindu customers here say they’re against what’s happening.

‘We need to stamp this out and I think they’ve got the message now. We’re all together here – Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

‘This is 2022 – we’re just trying to work hard and worry about paying our electricity bills!

Another man in the Spinney Hills area, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It’s about the politics in India and some immigrants who have come to Leicester recently think they can bring the sort of thing that happens in India to this city but we won’t accept it. It shouldn’t happen in Leicester.’

Linden Walker, 52, added: ‘I’ve seen the police around. I think it should all stop soon.’

People living in the area around the Golden Mile in Belgrave were also hopeful the trouble would end. Michaela Sufterova, 24, of Belgrave, said: ‘I live near Belgrave Road so it’s quite worrying for me – I just try to stay away from it.

‘I haven’t seen any violence but I see a lot of police around. They could be doing better but they’re trying to contain it. It’s strange seeing it all on the national news and I hope it does end soon.’

Rahul Kumar, 28, said: ‘I’m a Punjabi Sikh so we don’t interfere and I haven’t seen any of the problems there have been around here. I think the problems are worse in Highfields – I don’t think it’s too bad around here in Belgrave.’

In a tweet yesterday afternoon, Leicestershire Police said: ‘The impact of the disorder on our communities is not acceptable. Thank you to all who are working to reduce tensions. We will not tolerate violence or disorder in our city.’

A further tweet added there would be ‘proactive patrols in the East Leicester area’ and people were urged to call the police with any information about the disorder. The police can be contacted on 101 or on 999 in an emergency.

Independent MP for Leicester East Claudia Webbe previously said some social media accounts appeared to be ‘preying on this unease’ by ‘spreading misinformation’. 

She wrote to Leicestershire Police’s temporary chief constable at the start of the month, and then again, before the weekend’s recent trouble, urging vigilance, and passing on reports ‘of incitement to hate targeted at those of Muslim of Hindu faith’.

Ms Webbe said constituents had told her trouble had been simmering for months.

She published on Twitter a letter she sent to Leicestershire Police’s temporary chief constable Rob Nixon on September 1, well before last weekend’s violence.

Urging police to stay vigilant, she detailed ‘serious concerns’ of residents, afraid to leave their homes at night, after reports of violence in the Belgrave area of the city, after India’s victory over Pakistan, in the Asia Cup cricket match, on August 28.

Days later, on September 14, Ms Webbe, again writing to the chief constable, about ‘ongoing disturbances’ and ‘incitement to hate’ listed incidents on September 5, and on September 9, following which two arrests were made.

She said constituents had told her ‘tensions in the community may be more long-standing and not narrowly related to the India v Pakistan’ match, pre-dating that flashpoint by ‘several months’.

Writing before the weekend’s latest incidents, Ms Webbe again warned of ‘the risk of escalation if community tensions increase’, and claimed people were reportedly using social media platform to stoke trouble.

She said: ‘There are reports of incitement to hate being targeted at those of Muslim and Hindu faith, which is being shared on social media to cause fear.

‘Places like Facebook and via WhatsApp designed to ‘entrap’ members of the local community to attend a protest, sparked by hate.’

She spoke of one such ‘protest’, adding: ‘I have no doubt that this fake event was designed to provoke additional clashes and to cause disharmony and distrust.’

Ms Webbe accused those who were ‘spreading misinformation on social media and elsewhere’ of ‘preying on this unease’.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, called the recent troubles a ‘dark episode’ in a city where he and residents ‘rightly pride ourselves on celebrating our diversity’.

He said: ‘Attempts to sow division including by those with extremist views will fail and are totally condemned across Leicester.

‘We utterly condemn violent incidents on our streets; marches with provocative slogans inciting hate; attacks on places on worship, symbols or religion,’ he added.

‘It has always been the case – re-confirmed from my conversations across communities – that the vast majority of Leicester’s Hindu and Muslim communities are law abiding and continue to enjoy longstanding good relations.

‘These strengths will help us through this dark episode.’

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has said said he is ‘baffled’ by the disturbances in the city as it was normally ‘very peaceful’ with good relations between different communities. 

Sir Peter said the trouble had been fuelled by some ‘very distorted social media stuff’ as well as people coming from outside to ‘have a bit of a set-to’ in Leicester. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, he praised the response of the police and said he was confident there would be no repeat of the events on Saturday.

‘The way in which they dealt with things [on Sunday] was very effective indeed and hopefully will have made sure we don’t get a repeat of what happened on Saturday,’ he said. 

‘I have talked to a lot of community leaders and they are doing what they can to bring Leicester to normal because in Leicester normal is very good relations between people of different faiths.

‘They and I while being baffled by it are also very disturbed by it but I think we are all very confident Leicester is resilient enough to be able to return to normal relations very soon.’ 

Videos from the scene at the weekend showed a group of masked men march through Leicester with one seen armed with a 2×4 foot piece of wood.

On Sunday, there were ugly scenes across the east of the city, which began after police received reports of an unauthorised protest involving up to 200 people marching towards Highfields.

Addressing the clash in Birmingham last night, astatement from West Midlands Police read: ‘Following a protest gathering in Smethwick last night (20 September), there was some minor disorder and one person was arrested.

‘We had a pre-planned police presence near the temple in Spon Lane where fireworks and missiles were thrown towards some of our officers. Thankfully no-one was injured.

‘We’re also looking into reports of a small number of cars being damaged.

‘An 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife and remains in custody for questioning.

‘To help ensure there was no outbreak of serious violence, we had stop and search powers in place until this morning.

‘We are continuing to provide a visible police presence, working closely with faith leaders and partners across the community to provide reassurance.

‘We will continue to monitor the situation locally and across the region.’




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