Christian Voice and BPP protest against Mawlid procession

BPP in Redhill (2)Cultures clashed on Easter Sunday when Muslims marched in the streets to celebrate the birth of their prophet Muhammad.

Leaving Memorial Park at 1pm, men, women and children marched through the town lead by Imam, Mazar Hussain Gilani, from Walthamstow, London. Shouting “Allah is great” and “Long live the Prophet” while waving Islamic flags, worshippers from across the country joined Surrey’s first Mawlid procession.

But in Brighton Road, the 450-strong crowd were confronted by Union flags and banners held by two opposing packs of protesters. Holding placards reading “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Our Lord’s Day”, four members of the right-wing British People’s Party stood watching the parade pass. And member of church pressure group Christian Voice bellowed Bible verses from a megaphone besides two of his members as the chorusing crowds went by.

Irfan Akhtar, 32, from East Walthamstow, London, was handing out leaflets to spectators during the march and said: “This is a historic day for Surrey. We just want to show our beliefs. We’re not looking to upset or intimidate people. Islam is a peaceful religion.”

But the marchers were accused by the protesters of being provocative by choosing Easter Sunday for the event. BPP members Pete Williamson, 41, from Brighton, said: “Why have they chosen today of all days to hold this march? We heard that they [the Muslim population] wanted to hold a demonstration and we’re here just to make people aware of what we stand for.”

Christian Voice leader Stephen Green, 56, said: “Jesus is our living saviour and for them to be marching on this holy day of the Christian year is disrespectful to say the least. I think it’s intimidating.”

But march organiser Mohammed Khalid, head of the Redhill Islamic Centre, said the procession wasn’t a deliberate attempt to upset people. He said: “It was a peaceful procession to mark the birthday of Muhammad and it’s happening [in towns and cities] all over the UK today.” He added: “I wish a happy Easter to all my Christian fellows.”

The procession finished at Redhill Islamic Centre in Earlswood Road, Earlswood, at 2pm where the worshippers met for prayer.

Surrey Chronicle, 27 March 2008

See also BPP news report, 23 March 2008