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Flintshire Muslim Cultural Society accuses English Defence League of stirring racial tension in Shotton

MORE than 100 activists from far-right group the English Defence League (EDL) marched through Shotton to protest against plans to build an Islamic cultural centre in the town.

North Wales Police officers were out in force to ensure the protest on Saturday – which saw EDL members from Chester, Stoke, Burnley, Manchester, Cardiff and Liverpool congregate – passed without incident.

The EDL vehemently opposes the plans for what it calls a ‘mosque’, which could be built on the site of the former Shotton Lane Social Club.

But Monchab Ali, chairman of the Flintshire Muslim Cultural Society, which is more than halfway to raising the money to buy the venue, insisted the proposal was for an Islamic cultural centre which would benefit the community.

He told the Chronicle: “The EDL has come from outside Shotton in an attempt to divide the community.

“I have been in business for more than 22 years and throughout that time I have not seen any signs of racial tension or problems in the community.

“We have been supporting local football teams, cricket clubs and primary schools – whatever opportunity we have had, we have been supporting the community.”

Mr Ali also attacked a leaflet campaign co-ordinated by BNP councillor John Walker to fight the proposed centre.

In the leaflet Cllr Walker said: “We strongly oppose a development of this kind in the heart of our community.

“Deeside has had its fair share of immigration over the years, but this is a step too far.

“The owner of the Shotton Bengal Dynasty restaurant (Mr Ali) is...seeking to open this Islamic centre.

“Please bear in mind if you dine at this establishment you may well be inadvertently funding this new development.”

Mr Ali countered: “That is completely untrue. Mr Walker lives in Mancot – what is his part to the community and why is he saying such unfounded allegations?”

The society currently rents the Queensferry Institute building for Islamic and Arabic classes, which are held twice a week.

Martin Smith, spokesman for campaign group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) said: “The UAF deplores the EDL’s protest against building a cultural centre.

“Instead of spreading lies and hate towards the Muslim community in Britain, we believe we should be able to celebrate anybody’s culture and live a life free of hate and bigotry.”

North Wales Police Superintendent Dave Owens, the senior officer at the protest on Saturday, said the parade passed without incident.

He said: “Our intention was to facilitate a peaceful protest and we were helped in achieving this by the organisers, who discussed their plans with us before the event and were fully co-operative throughout.”

Supt Owens said the Deeside neighbourhood police team, led by Sergeant Tony Heaword, will continue to work with community leaders ‘to address any ongoing concerns’.