Islam rally called off as costs soar

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A planned rally by Islamic fundamentalists which had alarmed Middle Eastern governments and British Jews was cancelled yesterday after the organisers were unable to meet rising security costs for the event.

More than 9,000 tickets had been sold for the "Rally for Islamic Revival" at the London Arena in Docklands tomorrow, called to discuss the way forward to a single Islamic state dominating the world.

But the venue management became increasingly concerned that normal levels of security would prove inadequate as controversy mounted and the threat of attacks and protests outside the event increased.

Pressure culminated in a strong warning from the Home Office two days ago that any rally speeches made in support of terrorism or violence would not be tolerated. Fears had centred on plans for some of the world's most notorious terrorists to address the audience through taped and videoed messages.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of the Al-Muhajiroun movement which was holding the rally, insisted to the last moment that the meeting would go ahead despite pressure from governments at home and abroad. But the organisation was forced to change its mind when it was unable to pay for the additional security set at three times higher than normal after discussions with police.

Alex McCrindle, the venue's general manager, said they had received Muslim groups before and had been unaware that the Al-Muhajiroun organisation was any different. He said the organisers could notmeet the increased costs "and therefore in the interests of safety we have no alternative but to cancel the meeting".

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad was unavailable to comment on the decision to cancel.