The racist English Defence League is set to come to Rochdale on Saturday of this week. Activists there are organising to protest against them.
Nine men were convicted on charges of sex exploitation of young women last month. Eight of the men were Pakistani and all were Muslim.
The EDL has used the case to try and whip up racism in the town.
“They want to exploit what happened here,” local student Abdul told Socialist Worker.
“But this was a sex crime, not a Muslim sex crime.
“I have been giving leaflets out locally, where I play football, the barbershop, to build the protest.
“There seems to be a lot of pressure on local Muslims not to demonstrate.
“Messages are going round telling people to stay at home.
“But the mosque elders and the so called community elders the police talk to are detached from Muslim youth.”
Sam O’Brien has organised Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protests in Rochdale in the past.
He reports, “We started by having a UAF meeting in a community centre.
“We have leafleted the Central Mosque, the college, commuters at the railway station, local shops and cafes.
On Saturday we leafleted the town centre and got a very good response.
“People are determined that what happened should not be used by racists and fascists to poison the atmosphere here.”
Rochdale UAF has launched a unity statement calling for support for the 9 June protest. Gerald Kaufman MP has backed it alongside local trade unionists and activists.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Rochdale backs the protest.
Nick Wigmore is divisional secretary of Rochdale NUT and a member of the union’s national executive committee.
He said, “Black and minority ethnic groups are too often made scapegoats.”
Nick stressed the need to “tackle the damaging effects of racism and Islamophobia”.
Sam pointed to the long history of fighting racism from the days in the 1970s. He said, “Now it is important that we stand together against the EDL on 9 June.”
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