Saturday, January 02, 2010

Islamic march plan sparks outrage in military town

LONDON (AFP) – A controversial Islamic group sparked a row in Britain Saturday after announcing plans for a march to commemorate civilians killed in the Afghanistan war through a town known for honouring dead soldiers.

Islam4UK says it wants to march through Wootton Bassett, which regularly sees hundreds gather in its streets as the bodies of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan parade through in hearses.

The town, which is close to the Royal Air Force base where soldiers' bodies are repatriated, has become a powerful symbol of Britain's war effort.

Islam4UK calls itself a platform for Al-Muhajiroun, a radical group now disbanded which used to be headed by Omar Bakri, an Islamist preacher barred from Britain for his views.

The march is expected to be held in the coming weeks and will feature symbolic coffins to honour Muslims killed in the conflict.

Islam4UK said on its website that the march would be "held not in memory of the occupying and merciless British military, but rather the real war dead who have been shunned by the Western media and general public".

It added: "It is quite extraordinary... that those military serviceman who have directly or indirectly contributed to their death are paraded as war heroes and moreover honoured for what is ultimately genocide."

A total of 108 British soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2009 compared to 2,038 civilians in the first ten months of the year, according to the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.

The news prompted anger from local politicians, who condemned Islam4UK leader Anjem Choudary.

"We are a Christian country and a traditional old English market town who honour very much our queen and country. We obey the law and pay respects to our servicemen who protect our freedom," said Chris Wannell, a Wootton Bassett town councillor and former mayor.

"If this man has any decency about him, he will not hold a march through Wootton Bassett."

The local police, who have to approve plans for the march, said there was "significant community concern" about it, adding they could apply for a banning order.

AFP, 2 January 2010


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