A potentially violent demonstration by a far-right group in front of a small mosque was neutralised when the worshippers offered food and drink instead of angry words. By Jelte ten Holt.
‘I think the world can learn from what happened outside that ramshackle little mosque on Sunday,’ Father Tim Jones told the BBC about the events that transpired on May 26th at the York Mosque in Bull Lane, York, England.
Councillor Neil Barnes told the BBC, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that the York Mosque tackled anger and hatred with peace and warmth – and I won’t forget the sight of a Muslim offering a protester tea and biscuits with absolute sincerity.’
The protesters were members of the allegedly Islamophobic far-right English Defence League, which grew out of the hooliganism movement in England. The group has been connected with street demonstrations and violence, with numerous members arrested for their actions against Muslims within the country.
The Scarborough division of the group had announced via Facebook that they would protest outside the mosque, prompting fears that things could get out of hand. More than one hundred supporters of the mosque had gathered to watch the protest.
Rather than react with anger at the protest, however, the mosque goers went up to them, offered them tea, biscuits and a game of football, according to the BBC report. In the end the groups ended up chatting for 30 or 40 minutes and the protest diffused without any violence or altercations.
Father Tim, who was nearby the protest as the mosque lies within his parish, said to the BBC of the Muslim worshippers ‘I’ve always known they were intelligent and compassionate people and I think this has demonstrated the extent to which they are people of courage – certainly physical courage and also a high degree of moral courage.’
Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu told the BBC that the mosque goers’ response was ‘Fantastic. Tea, biscuits and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views.’
York Mosque needs £1.5 million to complete a building project. Donations can be made by PayPal and credit card. Get more details of the fundraising as well as the mosque itself on their website.