Rival Muslims clash at Leeds centre
An all-out brawl broke out yesterday at a Muslim community centre in Leeds in the north of England.
A video, caught on a mobile phone before being uploaded to Facebook, depicted a violent scuffle between two warring sides of the Bangladeshi community.
According to this report, Facebook users familiar with the situation claimed the row broke out due to ongoing tensions over who runs the centre, which has served as a hub of political activity for the local Labour Party as well as national Labour figures.
Local police were caught in the middle of the violence. The video shows chairs being hurled across the room, with police officers being tugged back and forth between those attempting to fight. At one point, a policeman is shown to punch one man in the face as he tries to wrestle his truncheon from him.
The Bangladeshi Community Centre is in the Roundhay Road in the Harehills area, just north-east of Leeds City Centre. It has been used as a congregating point for Palestinian activists, Labour Party officials, and the Islamic Relief charity, which has held a number of events in the building.
In 2012, Islamic Relief used the community centre to host separate fundraising events for Syrian and Palestinian causes. Islamic Relief has been the subject of controversy around the world in recent years, with the Israeli and UAE governments both banning the organisation for its involvement with terrorism.
Islamic Relief strongly denies these allegations, and claims that its own internal audit has cleared it of any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, local police in Leeds are putting extra resources onto the streets of Harehills in order to reassure locals.
A statement from local police said:
Officers were called to the Bangladeshi Centre, Roundhay Road in Leeds around 12.30pm today following reports of a disturbance where it is believed four people have been injured.
A number of arrests have been made and enquiries are ongoing as to the circumstances of the incident. Increased Neighbourhood Patrols will be in the area to reassure the local community.
It is not the first time an altercation has occurred at the venue. In 2013, the Yorkshire Evening Post reportded a fight on the morning of Eid celebrations.
The rally initially was organised by a Phoenix man who says he is a former Marine who fought in the Iraq War and believes Islam is a violent religion.
He led about 250 people who carried pistols, assault rifles, American flags and drawings of Muhammad to the venue.
That group was met by an equal number of rival protesters, some holding signs promoting love and peace, who came to show their support for the mosque and Muslim community.
As the two sides argued and yelled, dozens of police officers formed a line between them and kept them separated. There were no reports of injuries or arrests at the protest, which lasted a couple of hours and gained attention around the country on social media.
The protest came about month after a shootout outside a Mohammed cartoon-drawing contest in a Dallas suburb. Two Phoenix men showed up at the event with assault rifles and were killed by police. The men had worshipped at the Phoenix mosque where Friday’s protest took place.