Residents of Leicester in the English Midlands are said to be “petrified” to leave their homes after religious tensions led to clashes in the city that have since spread to a town 70km away.
Cores of masked men gathered outside the Durga Bhawan Hindu temple in Smethwick, near Birmingham, Tuesday night to protest.
Police were seen with hard hats and shields trying to drive crowds away from the temple while protesters scaled the surrounding border fence. A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of a knife, with witnesses claiming bottles and firecrackers were thrown.
The scenes follow those in Leicester, where clashes broke out on Saturday and Sunday in which Leicestershire Police arrested 47 people after tensions boiled over following a recent cricket match between India and Pakistan.
The incident came as Hindu and Muslim leaders in Leicester issued a joint statement calling for unity and calm. “Our two faiths have lived in harmony in this beautiful city for over half a century,” it said. “We arrived in this city together, we faced the same challenges together, we fought racist haters together, and together we made this city a beacon of diversity and community cohesion.”
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe said communities in her constituency had been traumatized by the weekend’s violence. “People have told me they haven’t left their homes since the first spark, the India vs. Pakistan cricket match on August 28,” she said The Independent.
“I deal with a large number of communicators and residents, especially women and young people who need support. They are petrified, very scared. They are asked to fear their neighbors, people they have grown up side by side with for decades.
“People who work in factories have said they knocked down tools to go home and protect their families. This is worrying because they already live in poverty; they cannot accept any further loss of income. This is a real trauma that will leave the community.”
She fears the situation is not unique. So far, a Leicester man has been arrested for his role in the incident, but police have confirmed some 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 assault weapon in connection with the violence.
In Smethwick, Councilor 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 evil intentions will be dealt with by the law. Our communities stand together against such bigotry and the peddlers of hate are not welcome here.”
Ms Webbe warned that “toxic hate messages” were being circulated on social media by extremist groups aimed at inciting violence among young men. “We must be able to combat the extremism and right-wing fascism that plagues our online media, because that is where demonization and incitement to religious and racial hatred is shared and developed,” Ms Webbe said.
A West Midlands Police spokesman said an 18-year-old man had been arrested at the Smethwick protest on suspicion of possession of a knife: “We had a pre-planned police presence near the Temple in Spon Lane where firecrackers and rockets were being thrown were opposed to some of our officers. Fortunatly nobody was hurt.”
(© Independent News Service)
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/britain/violence-between-hindus-and-muslims-in-england-spreads-following-india-v-pakistan-cricket-match-42008207.html Violence between Hindus and Muslims spreads in England after cricket match between India and Pakistan