Church and community leaders in Keighley have combined to condemn the “vile crime” of grooming children for sex.

More than two dozen of the town’s most influential people have put their names to a letter describing the practice as “morally, legally and spiritually wrong”.

And they urge anyone with suspicions about possible perpetrators to contact the police.

Signatories to the letter include MP Kris Hopkins, district and town councillors and leading figures from the clergy, mosques and local organisations.

The unprecedented initiative comes just two days before the far-right English Defence League is due to hold a demonstration in the town against alleged sexual grooming.

This week Mr Hopkins said he deeply resented the EDL’s decision to come to Keighley and called on the community to “hold its nerve”.

He said: “These individuals and their racist views are simply not welcome in Keighley. I have worked closely with the police over recent weeks on this matter and, regrettably, current legislation does not provide for such a gathering to be banned. However, I have total confidence in Chief Superintendent Ian Kennedy and his officers to deal professionally and appropriately with the situation as they find it on Saturday.

“What the rest of us must not do is respond in a manner which inadvertently furthers the malevolent aims of the EDL.

“They want to create division, bitterness and hatred in Keighley, but we must not let them succeed.

“I would ask local people to go about their normal business, to support local retailers and let the police do their job.”

District councillor Abid Hussain, a leading member of Keighley Muslim Association, appealed to the Muslim community to show restraint.

Coun Hussain said: “Everybody has a right to protest and we cannot stop this protest, but members of the Muslim community will be concerned.

“The message for the Muslim community, which will be passed on to all the mosques, will be to make sure there is no confrontation.”

The EDL’s Yorkshire division has announced it plans to hold a peaceful demonstration at Church Green at 2pm against allegations of the sexual grooming of white girls by Asian men.

The event was planned after police made ten arrests across Bradford district – the majority in Keighley – of men suspected of grooming a 14-year-old girl.

They have all been released on bail as an investigation continues.