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Imams hold meeting to discuss affect on community relations in run-up to today's Bradford city centre protest
A group of Bradford Imams has expressed concern about tomorrow’s mass protest in the city, fearing it could do more harm than good.
Thousands of Muslims are expected to meet in Centenary Square in the afternoon to rally against an American-made ‘anti-Islam’ film they say attacks their faith and insults the Prophet Muhammed.
Organisers estimated around 2,000 people could turn up but there are reports that crowds could be much bigger if supporters travel in from outlying areas.
Despite assurances from the Council For Mosques (CFM) the protest will be peaceful, Bradford Imams Forum – which is not affiliated to the CFM – has warned the gathering could do more harm than good. It is understood a number of meetings have been held, including talks between organisers, Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Police.
The film, which has a 14-minute trailer on Youtube and was produced by the American Coptic Church, has already sparked off protests across the globe.
Last night, members of Bradford Imams Forum were due to meet to decide if they should support the protest in their own city.
BIF spokesman Syad Hussain said: “If it goes ahead and it’s peaceful then that’s all right but there is a serious risk that it could go wrong and break the peace we live in and enjoy in this city right now.
“Muslims are peaceful people. We have good relationships with our neighbours – we don’t want that to be undone.”
Mr Hussain was speaking after other forum member Mustaqueem Shah tweeted: “Bradford Imams Forum believes there is no need for such a protest. Things can go wrong.”
But Council For Mosques chief executive Mohammed Saleem Khan said he was “absolutely convinced” the protest would go ahead without trouble.
He said: “We had an emergency meeting earlier this week with representatives from all Bradford’s mosques and with senior leaders and the feeling was clear we should have a protest.”
A police spokesman said: “We do not know how many people will be attending the event, however. We are aware people feel strongly about the video and wish to express their views.
“The police are working closely with the organisers from the Bradford Council of Mosques to assist them in managing this safely.”
Mosque leaders will be giving out a strong message at tomorrow’s prayers that the protest must be peaceful. The Police have already said officers will be providing a visual presence throughout the rally, due to start at 3.30pm.