Islamists Cancel Wootton Bassett Protest Plans

(BBC) – A RADICAL ISLAMIC GROUP has cancelled plans to hold an anti-war march through a town famous for honouring the UK’s servicemen and women killed abroad.

Members of Islam4UK had planned to march through Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, to honour Muslims killed in the Afghanistan conflict.

The government had been considering outlawing the group, which is said to have extremist links.

Earlier this week, Gordon Brown said plans for the march were “disgusting”.

Families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan had condemned the planned march, and MPs signed a motion calling on the home secretary and local authorities to prevent the protest.

Wootton Bassett has become the focus of public mourning, with hundreds lining the streets every time hearses carrying the repatriated bodies of killed UK service personnel are driven through the town from nearby RAF Lyneham.

On Sunday, a statement from Islam4UK’s leader, Anjem Choudary, said it had “successfully highlighted the plight of Muslims in Afghanistan”.

“We at Islam4UK have decided, after consultation with others including our Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, that no more could be achieved even if a procession were to take place in Wootton Bassett,” he said.

The group denied members had planned to carry 500 empty coffins through the town.

Islam4UK had previously said it had chosen Wootton Bassett to create maximum publicity.

The News of the World reported on Sunday that Home Secretary Alan Johnson would outlaw the group on Monday.

The newspaper said comments made by senior members of Islam4UK and on websites breached the Terrorism Act.

A Home Office spokesman said the final decision on whether to ban the group rested with Mr Johnson but he would not confirm the plan.

“Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism,” he said.

“Decisions on proscription must be proportionate and based on evidence that a group is concerned in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000.”

North Wiltshire MP James Gray said he was “extremely glad” Islam4UK had abandoned its plans, and he also condemned Mr Choudary’s actions as a “media stunt”.

“He was trying to make a political statement, the whole announcement was to get media coverage – he admitted that himself – and he achieved it. He received lots of coverage,” he said.

Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, said Mr Choudary had been deliberately provocative.

“His attempt to demonstrate at Wootton Bassett was set out to provoke hatred between communities and is not welcomed in the Muslim communities,” he said.

“He and his cronies have no support in the British Muslim communities.”

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Johnson ‘Will Back’ Wootton Bassett Islamic March Ban

(BBC) – THE HOME SECRETARY has said he will back any request from police or local government to ban an Islamic group marching through Wootton Bassett.

Alan Johnson said he felt “revulsion” at the thought of Islam4UK’s proposed march through the Wiltshire town.

Wootton Bassett has become famous for its repatriation ceremonies for fallen British service personnel.

Islam4UK says it wants to parade empty coffins through the town to draw attention to Afghan war casualties.

Mr Johnson said: “The idea that anyone would stage this kind of demonstration in Wootton Bassett fills me with revulsion.

“I find it particularly offensive that the town, which has acted in such a moving and dignified way in paying tribute to our troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, should be targeted in this manner.”

He added: “If the Wiltshire Police and local authority feel that a procession of this kind has the potential to cause public disorder and seek my consent to a banning order, then I would have no hesitation in supporting that request.”

Islam4UK, which has been linked to the radical al-Muhajiroun movement, said the town was chosen to create maximum publicity.

Anjem ChoudarySpokesman Anjem Choudary said: “We are having a procession, it’s in Wootton Bassett but it’s not about the people there and it’s not against them personally – rather it’s to highlight the real cost of war in Afghanistan.

“The sad reality of the situation is that if I were to hold it somewhere else it would not have the media attention that it has now.

“If I am to balance between the sensitivity of having it in Wootton Bassett and the possibility of continuing the quagmire and cycle of death in Afghanistan, then quite honestly I’m going to balance in favour of the latter.”

‘Dangerous and divisive’

Wiltshire Police said it had not received an application from any group to hold a march in the town.

Marches and demonstrations can be banned if police believe they are likely to endanger public order.

Earlier, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and the town’s MP James Gray all condemned the group’s plans.

North Wiltshire MP Mr Gray told BBC Radio 5 live: “Fine Mr Choudary, say what you want, I detest what you say, but please, please don’t come to Wootton Bassett.”

Social Cohesion Minister Shahid Malik added: “Anjem Choudary rightly has a reputation as a dangerous and divisive figure in the UK, however, he does not speak for Muslims in the UK.”

Wootton Bassett’s mayor Councillor Steve Bucknell said the town, which has a population of just over 11,000, was entirely inappropriate for any march, protest or demonstration which refers to Afghanistan or Iraq.

“We are going to do our utmost to make sure that this march doesn’t go ahead,” he said, adding that the town’s council had received dozens of e-mails and phone calls from people concerned with the issue.

Locals have turned out to honour the corteges of more than 100 service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they made their way from nearby RAF Lyneham to a morgue in Oxford.

Islam4UK said its march would not coincide with a repatriation ceremony.

… (Julian Ware-Lane, 04/01/2010) – Islam4UK should not be allowed to march through Wootton Bassett