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Saturday, May 30, 2020

More tea, vicar?

Reasonable responses to extremism

 

After walking across Hyde Park this morning to a launch breakfast at Selfridges, I passed the Animals in War memorial on Park Lane. It was partially covered in a sheet and partially sprayed with red paint. It was a sad sight to see something Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles OBE, Jilly Cooper OBE and others had worked so tirelessly to get built desecrated in this fashion.

 

On my return journey I passed the monument again. This time, though, workmen, in the presence of a cameraman and a photographer, were working to remove the graffiti. Several passers by thanked them for their efforts and I did just the same. Whoever vandalised this statue will hopefully be caught and punished but one cannot assume it was necessarily a Muslim who was the perpetrator. It could as easily have been a member of a far right group who wishes to incite hatred and violence.

 

The Animals in War memorial, photographed on 28th May 2013 (© Matthew Steeples)
The Animals in War memorial, photographed on 28th May 2013 (© Matthew Steeples)

Sadly such publications as the Daily Mail have decided to stoke racists and bigots in the wake of the appalling murder in Woolwich last week. Their efforts will fail. Britons, in the main, are tolerant individuals and a report I read later in The Guardian proves that even English Defence League members can be reasonable.

 

In an article by Ann Czernik, it was reported that a York mosque dealt with a demonstration of half a dozen supporters of the EDL by offering them tea and biscuits. A friendly dialogue ensued.

 

One EDL supporter, Leanne Staven, subsequently commented:

 

“We need a voice. I think white British who have any concerns feel we can’t speak freely. Change has been coming for a long time and in light of what happened to that soldier in Woolwich there have to be restrictions on people learning extremist behaviour and it has to stop”.

 

A member of the mosque, Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, responded:

 

“There is the possibility of having dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong”.

 

Never has the phrase “More tea, vicar?” been more appropriate.

 

 

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