Page last updated at 00:48 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ministers attacked over tackling anti-Islamic hostility

EDL supporters at the rally in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent
More than 600 officers were assigned to ensure safety at the Stoke rally

There is growing disenchantment at the government's "lacklustre response" to rising anti-Islamic hostility, the Muslim Council of Britain has said.

The council wrote to the home secretary on the "growing problem" after a march by the English Defence League (EDL).

Some 1,500 EDL supporters protested against Islamic extremism in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday.

The Home Office insisted the government "will challenge any views that reject or undermine our shared values".

A spokesman added: "We do not encourage or advocate any voices of hatred or violence within our communities."

'Disturbing trend'

Three people were charged with racially or religiously aggravated disorder offences after the EDL's rally. Police made a total of 17 arrests.

Unite against Fascism staged a counter-demonstration.

Six officers were hurt and five police vehicles were damaged when an EDL group broke through a police cordon.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said there was a "growing disenchantment at the lacklustre response from our political leaders to speak out against anti-Muslim hatred" among many British Muslim communities.

His letter said: "Whether this exists in explicit form through the actions of far-right groups, or implicitly with hysterical headlines in our media, the policy response to any of these has been far from satisfactory.

"We ask you to take leadership in this matter, especially in a year where divisive elements may well flourish in the run-up to the next general election."

The MCB accused political leaders of staying silent on the issue and said they had "ridden the wave of this disturbing trend" but failed to challenge hostility.

It hosted a meeting of Muslim groups at the weekend to discuss what it called "the growing trend of anti-Muslim hatred and violence".

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities said the EDL did not represent the "vast majority" of people in the UK.

He added: "Government condemns any group that seeks to create distrust and division between communities.

"Government is working to address all forms of extremism, including violent far-right groups."

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