Far-right activists staged a protest outside a mosque in central London today, as hundreds of Muslims attended Friday prayers.
Around 100 members of Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL) gathered outside the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in the heart of the capital, as men, women and children entered the building to observe Jumu-ah, or congregational Friday prayers.
Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, said his group were protesting against an appearance outside the mosque by radical cleric Anjem Choudary.
"We were here last year too. It was like Rorke’s Drift … just us in the middle of thousands of angry Muslims," he said, according to the Guardian.
The protesters, some of whom were dressed in pig-head masks and niqab veils, chanted anti-Islamic messages, while waving banners, placards and Union Jack and St George flags.
Members of the EDL sang “It's our country, we're taking it back” to the tune of the Beach Boys' Sloop John B as prayers were being held, while others shouted “scum”.
A strong police presence of around 100 officers kept the protesters away from the mosque entrance.
At one point, trouble threatened to escalate when a handful of far-right demonstrators surged down the pavement towards a group of Muslims.
Some protesters were restrained by officers, claiming they were antagonised by some worshippers.
Choudary was among those praying at the gold-domed mosque which can hold 5,000 worshippers.
Following Jumu-ah, Choudary spoke urged Muslims not to vote at May general election, and handed out leaflets entitled “why it is strictly forbidden to vote in Islam”.
One passage read: “Only God can make things lawful and unlawful. If a human being does this ... this is considered the most heinous crime.”
However, he was accused by some worshippers of encouraging anti-Islamic protests, the Evening Standard reported.
As the mosque emptied, there were heated conversations as worshippers challenged Choudary's message.
“It’s completely the wrong message they they are putting out,” Ahmed Dogan, an architect originally from Turkey, told the Guardian.
“It’s also incredible that they – both them and the ones of the other side of the street - are doing this on this Friday. It’s important to both us, Christians and Jews. We should be together on a day like this," he said.
Naheed Majeed, a Conservative party activist and the former mayoress of the Windsor and Maidenhead, said she had planned to pray at the mosque this afternoon, but was glad she didn't.
Scotland Yard said there were no arrests during the protest, the Evening Standard reported.
Additional reporting by PAReuse content