VIDEO: Controversial blogger absent as EDL protest outside Islam information centre
POLICE stood guard outside a new Islamic information centre yesterday as members of the English Defence League gathered to protest against it.
Present for the event were Luton’s mayor, council leader, council chief executive and Luton in Harmony co-ordinator Sarah Allen.
But the Discover Islam yesterday confirmed it had begun an investigation after Yusuf Bonner, the man originally named as the centre’s manager but absent from the launch, was alleged to have links to an organisation connected with Islamic extremists.
The centre, in Upper George Street, is aimed at giving the public access to information about the religion, to break down barriers to community cohesion in Luton.
Trustee Sufian Sadiq told the audience at the launch: “People keep saying that some people live within their own area and don’t integrate with other communities.
“There are elements of the community who feel there is no cohesion happening. People say they feel scared to go into Bury Park.
“The reality is that we were not doing enough to make Luton a more tolerant and harmonious place.
“We had to sit down as a community and we decided to come and say Islam isn’t something to be afraid of, it is something that makes you co-exist peacefully.
“It is about personal belief, conviction and faith.
“People can come here and ask their questions over a cup of tea. We are not shoving leaflets at people.”
Members of the EDL stood outside throughout the launch and handed out leaflets outlining concerns about Mr Bonner.
A blog by the former Catholic monk, who was previously a follower of a number of other religions, compares the process of converting people to Islam to removing a vest from a suicide bomber. It has since been removed from the internet,
He is also understood to be linked to the IERA, an organisation which according to the Daily Telegraph numbers among its advisors several controversial preachers, one of whom, Zakir Naik, has been banned from the UK.
Mr Sadiq would not be drawn on why Mr Bonner, named as centre manager on invites to the launch event, was not present.
He said: “Any views that anyone has expressed in the past do not represent us.
“If there was ever an allegation against anyone involved with the centre they will go through a due process.
“Discover Islam isn’t going to have anyone here that doesn’t represent the view of mainstream Islam.”
He said all of the funding for the centre had come from within Luton’s Muslim community, including from Bury Park businessman Mohammed Nadeem.
Describing the EDL as “bullies” he said leader Stephen Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, could “give JK Rowling a run for her money” when it came to fiction.
But Mr Lennon said he still had concerns about Mr Bonner’s links to the centre.
He said: “They pulled their front man after we rumbled them. We are not going to let this rest.”
Council leader Hazel Simmons said: “The new Discover Islam centre is run by volunteers who want to give non-Muslims the opportunity to find out what Islam is all about.
“They are being proactive and making a conscious effort to share their understanding of their culture and religion.
“Members of the centre have reassured us that the opinions expressed on Mr Bonner’s blog are his own personal views, are not representative of the centre and the matter is under investigation.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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