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Co-Chair Heather Fletcher speaks at Stand Up to Racism rally

19 May 2018

The group Football Lads Alliance held a rally today in Manchester. Their website’s “About us” page states:

We believe:

In making a safer environment and community for all of our children and grandchildren

In being inclusive and acceptable to all colours, creeds, faiths and religions

In holding our politicians accountable to bring about a change in anti-terrorist legislation in order to safeguard all communities now and in the future

However an article in "The Times" newspaper on 30 March 2018 paints a different picture of the Football Lads Alliance. As "The Times" has a paywall, we have copied below just three short extracts below within the constraints of “fair use” to ensure that our readers are fully informed.

The Premier League is to warn clubs about the Football Lads Alliance after investigations have revealed that the group is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda.

The Times went undercover at an FLA march in Birmingham last weekend and saw evidence of threatening behaviour towards Asian bystanders and heard speeches attacking Muslims in Britain.

The FLA’s private Facebook account includes racist posts attacking Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and Diane Abbott, the Labour MP.

This explains why, as the Manchester Evening News reported, two separate groups held counter-rallies. Heather Fletcher spoke at the one organised by Stand Up To Racism. Her speech is reproduced below with her permission.

Heather Fletcher’s speech

Good afternoon. I am not going to mention anything about this divisive bigoted group as I don’t think we should give them any more publicity.

Instead I am going to concentrate on positive stories of people of all faiths and cultures standing in support of each other, helping each other and coming together with each other in their hours of need. This is how the world should work

I was pleased to see a full page advertisement in newspapers this week inserted by various Muslim groups standing up against recent antisemitism shown against the Jewish community. The advert stated:

“As British Muslims we believe that the time has come to speak out.

Far too long anti-Semitism has gone unchecked. It’s poison can be found in all political parties and all faiths including Islam.

We understand that many people empathise with the Palestinians BUT we must be vigilant against those who cynically use international issues to vilify Jews.  

As Muslims we believe that our future peace, security and prosperity of this great country can not be ensured while the Jewish community feels under threat. It is our duty to speak out against all forms of hatred and bigotry, against anti Semitism as well as anti Muslim hatred ”

At the time of the Manchester Arena bombing, the then President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush stated “The response of all communities in Manchester offering shelter and transport to each other shows our society’s resilience.” Indeed Taxi drivers of all faiths offered their services free to people caught up in the tragedy whatever their beliefs.

Five years ago this weekend soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered and thereafter many Mosques were unfairly targeted and damaged.

Muslim leaders in Stamford Hill, London recruited the help of Shomrim, an ultra Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood patrol to bolster security for their Mosques.  The Jewish patrol kept a close eye on all Mosques and reported anything suspicious to the Police. An example of one community helping another community of a different faith in their hour of need.

Finally, last year, the kosher restaurant J.S. in Prestwich was subjected to an antisemitic arson attack. The day afterwards many Muslims and people of other faiths participated in a vigil outside the restaurant in solidarity with the Jewish owner.

Those are just some examples of people showing solidarity with other people in their hour of need regardless of the fact they have a different faith.

The vast majority of people want to offer friendship, help and kindness. In hours of need there is usually a sense of togetherness. We must ALWAYS ensure that the voices of this kind, helpful and peaceful majority are always heard loudly above the voices of the bigoted minority who know only divisiveness, anger and hate.

 

 

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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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