Ongoing clashes between Muslims and Hindus 'could spread all over Britain' – The Telegraph

Unfounded rumours on social media and tensions in India are fuelling current unrest in the Midlands
Ongoing clashes between Muslims and Hindus threaten to "spread all over Britain”, faith leaders have warned, after 100 protesters descended on a Hindu temple.
A crowd of Muslim demonstrators reportedly threw fireworks and missiles in the direction of police in the industrial town of Smethwick on Tuesday night as the disorder seen in Leicester over the weekend appeared to spread across the Midlands.
On Wednesday night, faith leaders issued a warning that the current unrest, apparently fuelled by disinformation circulating on social media, “will spread all over Britain”.
Police made 47 arrests in Leicester this weekend for offences including making threats to kill, possession of a firearm and affray. Some linked the sectarian violence to a "country-based dispute" after India beat Pakistan in a cricket match in Dubai on August 28, while others have said false claims made on social media triggered the clashes.
The widespread disorder, involving mainly young men from sections of the Muslim and Hindu communities, erupted in Smethwick when a crowd of people gathered outside Durga Bhawan Temple. 
Video footage showed the masked and hooded men shouting "Allahu akbar", with dozens of officers deployed to the area in riot gear in response. No injuries were reported and an 18-year-old has since been arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife.
On Wednesday afternoon, there continued to be a large police presence outside the mosque in anticipation of further trouble, with six police vans and two patrol cars placed at strategic points around its perimeter.
Police later carried out searches of 10-15 strong groups of youths in the area around the Durga Bhagwan Hindu centre, seizing fireworks and other suspicious objects from several individuals, in what officers described as a “search and disperse” operation. Other officers also used vehicle number plate recognition technology in an attempt to spot cars that may have been in the vicinity of the centre during Tuesday evening’s disturbances.
West Midlands Police have said they will continue to monitor the situation locally and across the region.
However, religious leaders are bracing themselves for further clashes. Hindu Council UK told The Telegraph: “Religious leaders have continued to call for calm but the youths… It’s very difficult. You can’t control them. It’s crazy. It’s going everywhere. I can’t bring myself to say that it will come to London because we want to stop it somehow.”
The reasons behind the clashes in Leicester have allegedly been fuelled by disinformation circulating on social media. Earlier this month, false claims about the attempted kidnap of a Muslim teenage girl at the hands of Hindu men were shared on social media – an incident police have since said “did not take place” – as well as unfounded claims of attacks on mosques.
It has also been reported that events in India have also had an impact on the tensions on UK soil. Conflict between parts of the Hindu and Muslim communities in India is common, and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been criticised for Islamophobia, the rise of Hindu nationalism and the rising number of violent incidents against Muslims in the country.
Last Saturday, a group of young Hindu men were filmed marching through Green Lane Road, Leicester, where there are several Muslim-owned businesses. Some were filmed shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, a religious chant which has been co-opted by far-right Hindu nationalist groups in India.
Other videos shared online depicted Muslim men retailiating, including incidents of bottles being thrown a man clothed all in back climbing a Hindu temple and removing its saffron flag as crowds cheered.
On Wednesday night, after police confirmed that the clashes have been fuelled by young people travelling from other cities, religious leaders from the Hindu and Sikh communities held crisis talks amid fears the unrest would continue to spread.
One member of the Hindu community in Leicester, Vinod, said he was scared to give his full name for fear of reprisals. He warned: “This will continue to spread.
“Social media is playing a big part in this and there is an agenda – people are looking at creating disarray between communities – not just in Leicester but across all of the UK.
“We’ve been informed that there’s going to be something similar in Nottingham and Coventry. It’s well-planned with a narrative of anti-Islam and anti-Hindu sentiment and it’s the actions of a few fanatics who are trying to get a reaction.”
He added: “My personal opinion is that if we are not careful, it will spread all across Britain, wherever there are south Asian communities.”
A member of the Sikh community in Leicester, who did not want to be named, said that many of those who were causing the violence and unrest had come from out of town, from Birmingham, Luton, and Bradford.
“There’s a lot of young people behind this, using social media to settle scores,” he said. “People in Leicester are scared to go out in the evenings, especially if it’s dark.”
Community leaders on both sides have confirmed that the clashes in Smethwick began after rumours that an extremist Hindu speaker from the sub-continent was due to address a meeting at the Durga Bhawan Centre on Tuesday evening.
Hindu faith leaders joined forces with their Muslim counterparts on Tuesday afternoon, issuing a statement calling for calm and pointing out the speaker, Ritambra Bibi, was not a nationalist extremist but a religious thinker and charity worker.
Despite her speaking tour being cancelled due to ill health and her since returning to India, a number of “troublemakers” had already gathered at the centre and attempts were made to storm the building.
On Wednesday night faith leaders continued their attempts to restore calm and urged the community to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes.
Ashvani Kumar, a trustee of the Durga Bhawan Centre, said: “Interfaith leaders, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Christian were out talking to people and in the end only a few 100 troublmakers turned up.
“Some may have even come from Leicester. We are now trying to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Mazhar Mohammed, chair of the trustees at Jamia Masjid, Smethwick’s largest mosque, added: “Some of the local youth said they weren’t going to accept an extremist Hindu speaker intimidating local Muslims. People from this mosque tried to calm the situation.
“We hope this doesn’t happen again. We’ve lived peacefully in this town together for many years and these tensions have been created overseas by right wing extremists and brought over to the UK.”
The High Commission of India and the Pakistan High Commission have both issued statements condemning violence against the Hindu and Muslim communities, respectively, and demanding action by the UK authorities to ease tensions.
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