Outrage at Wootton Bassett protest

Tuesday 05 January 2010 01:00

Islamist extremists will be banned from marching through Wootton Bassett if they insist on going ahead with a threatened protest in the Wiltshire town that has become synonymous with the sacrifice of troops in Afghanistan, the Government has warned.

In a statement, the Prime Minister said the Wiltshire town has assumed a "special significance" in the life of the nation which should be respected.

"I am personally appalled by the prospect of a march in Wootton Bassett," he said.

"I believe that we as a nation should honour those brave servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

"Wootton Bassett has a special significance for us all at this time, as it has been the scene of the repatriation of many members of our armed forces who have tragically fallen. Any attempt to use this location to cause further distress and suffering to those who have lost loved ones would be abhorrent and offensive."

The plan by Islam4UK to parade along the town's high street with empty coffins symbolising the Muslim victims of the conflict in Afghanistan has been widely condemned by politicians, civic leaders, and mainstream Muslim groups.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he would have "no hesitation" in supporting a ban on the march if police or the council requested one. "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 said.

Tory leader David Cameron also condemned the proposed march, accusing Islam4UK's leader Anjem Choudary of seeking to generate "cheap publicity". "I think their views are completely reprehensible to the overwhelming majority of not just the British public, but British Muslims as well," he said.

The Mayor of Wootton Bassett, Steve Bucknell, said: "The people who attend the repatriations no doubt have a wide range of views about the conflicts, but those views are not voiced in our High Street, out of respect to those who have lost their lives and those who grieve for them."

Mr Choudary sought to justify the march in a long letter posted on his website - entitled "To the families of British soldiers who have fallen" - in which he mis-spells the town's name. "It is worth reminding those who are still not blinded by the media propaganda that Afghanistan is not a British Town near Wootton Basset (sic) but rather Muslim land which no one has the right to occupy," he said. "The procession in Wootton Basset is therefore an attempt to engage the British public's minds on the real reasons why their soldiers are returning home in body bags and the real cost of the war."

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