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Anti-Muslim demo opposed by police

Scotland’s largest police force has promised to “oppose” a demonstration by anti-Muslim extremists if the event is intent on stirring up racial hatred.

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police made the comment about a procession by the newly-formed Scottish Defence League (SDL) that is pencilled in for November.

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Anti-racist campaigners believe the far-right group wants to hold its rally near a mosque in Glasgow, or at a venue that is being lined up as a Muslim place of worship in Kilmarnock.

The SDL is thought to be affiliated to the English Defence League (EDL), an organisation that has staged protests this year against what it calls “militant Islam”.

The English group, which claims not to have any formal links with the British National Party, includes members of the BNP and a large football hooligan element.

It is the SDL’s intention to hold a demonstration in Scotland on November 14 that is worrying local authorities, police and community activists.

Authorities believe the SDL has earmarked George Square in Glasgow or land near the city’s sheriff court building as possible locations for the demonstration.

The latter venue is close to Glasgow Central mosque, a focal point for Strathclyde’s 30,000 Muslims.

Another option being considered for the protest, according to websites used by EDL supporters, is the Hillhead Tavern in Kilmarnock. Al-Huda Educational Society of Kilmarnock has hopes of buying the pub and turning it into Ayrshire’s first mosque.

However, the Sunday Herald understands that Strathclyde Police are ready to oppose any application for a rally that stirs up racial tensions.

Inspector Brian Gibson reportedly told a public meeting in Glasgow last week that such a proposal would not be welcomed by his force.

Groups need a local council’s permission if a rally requires the use of a ‘public space’, such as George Square, or if a procession involves road closures. It is at the point of a formal application that a police force can advise a local authority on whether an event should take place.

Osama Saeed, chief executive of the Scottish Islamic Foundation, said: “We congratulate Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police for the stance that they’ve taken on the SDL.

“The likelihood is, though, that even if banned there will be an illegal protest. We have to be ready for that.

“Some sort of action against this protest is inevitable and necessary, though it is essential that it is peaceful.”

A police spokesperson said: “A police officer in attendance at the [public] meeting stated if an application was received from a group whom we believe were intent on causing racial hatred on the streets, then Strathclyde Police would oppose it.

“Any request to hold a procession or assembly is made to the relevant local authorities who will, in the normal course of events, forward the application to the police and other interested parties as they see fit.”

An SDL spokesman said: “It will be a demo, We are not in a position to publish numbers but there is a lot of support from all over Scotland for this.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said he was not aware of an SDL application having been made yet.

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