The weekend proved no respite for Muslims in Portsmouth as a small protest aimed to exploit the fault lines of community tension.
Around 20 people, which included supporters of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), marched against the proposed Madani Academy faith school.
Amid angry chants of “You’re not English,” some held up English flags with a range of slogans written upon them, including the EDL’s ‘No Surrender’.
Protesters were angry at the alleged ‘Muslim-only’ academy as others made a crass link to ISIS by virtue of faith.
But the exclusionary nature of academy was denied by its director, Luthfur Rahman, in an interview with local press, “It is wrong to say that The Madani Academy is a Muslim-only school.
A peaceful march was marred by members of the far-right throwing coins at counter-protesters. Other community figures condemned the divisive and unrepresentative nature of the march.
The Madani Academy was also a target for hate last December when a pig’s head was left on a spike outside the school.
A predicted turnout of 750 failed to materialise. But it did not stop the EDL from making a long list of demands to justify their march – it ranged from the Trojan horse scandal, ‘Muslim-only’ cemeteries, Rotherham, and ‘illegal’ immigration.
The incoherent message still resonates in the online world but at a street-based level is stalling. Yet, a strain is felt financially on policing and communities as a whole.
As ever, the counter protest brought hundreds of activists together. Police only made ten arrests as rival groups clashed.
Nor did the protest have a detrimental impact upon local business according to Broad Street boss Mike Olley, who praised the police and other organisations, when speaking to local press.