British PM warns over Islamists' march in military town
LONDON — Prime Minister Gordon Brown would regard a planned march by an Islamic group against the Afghanistan war as "completely inappropriate" if it upset dead soldiers' families, his office said Monday.
Islam4UK wants to commemorate the civilians killed in the conflict with a march through Wootton Bassett where the bodies of dead British soldiers are paraded following their repatriation.
Although no date has yet been set, the mere suggestion of such a protest in a place that has become a powerful symbol of the war effort has caused uproar.
Brown's Downing Street office on Monday said it was up to the local authorities to decide whether the march should be allowed, but condemned anything that might offend the families of dead or injured service personnel.
"The prime minister's view would be obviously that anything that is considered to be offensive to, or of concern to, families of troops wounded or killed in Afghanistan would be completely inappropriate," a spokesman said.
Anjem Choudary, the leader of Islam4UK, admitted that choosing Wootton Bassett was designed to gain publicity.
"We need to gain media attention in order to highlight the plight of the ordinary men, women and children who are being mercilously murdered in Afghanistan," he told Sky News television.
A total of 108 British soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2009 compared to 2,038 civilians in the first 10 months of the year, according to the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.
In the same interview Choudary praised Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who he said was hugely popular and would win any election in the Muslim world.
Islam4UK calls itself a platform for Al-Muhajiroun, a radical group now disbanded which used to be headed by Omar Bakri, an Islamist preacher barred from Britain for his views.
Separately, seven Muslim men appeared in court in Luton on Monday charged in connection with protests at a homecoming parade in March 2009 for British soldiers who served in Iraq and Aghanistan.
The court heard how the men told the soldiers to "burn in hell" and branded them rapists, murderers and baby killers.
Jalal Ahmed, 21, Yousaf Bashir, 29, Jubair Ahmed, 19, Ziaur Rahman, 32, Shajjadar Choudhury, 31, Munim Abdul, 28, and Ibrahim Anderson, 32, all from Luton, deny using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.