Representatives of Britain First, an offshoot of the British National party that is contesting this month’s local and European elections, carried out what they called a Christian crusade, handing out leaflets and army issue Bibles to Muslim worshippers.
In Yorkshire, members of the group wore matching flatcaps and green jackets embossed with the party logo, which features a crown and the legend “Taking our country back”.
They filmed themselves telling one Muslim man to “reject the false prophet Mohammed and read the Bible”, and they visited the campaign office of Nazam Azam, a Muslim Labour councillor running for re-election in Bradford, demanding action on “Muslim grooming gangs”.
Bradford’s lord mayor, Khadim Hussain, said 10 Britain First representatives turned up at his house on Saturday and intimidated two of his daughters.
Zulfi Karim, secretary of the Bradford Council of Mosques, said the action marked a new wave of extremist action and was co-ordinated with almost military precision. He is due to travel to London on Thursday to meet Stephen Williams, a Liberal Democrat minister with responsibility for community cohesion.
Karim said the situation was tense. “Things are sizzling,” he said, adding that he was fearful the situation could get out of control if police and other agencies did not step in to reassure the community. “This Friday there will be 100,000 Muslims worshipping in mosques in Bradford. If these people turn up there with a camera, who knows what could happen. The last thing we want is our young people taking the law into their own hands.”
Paul Golding, Britain First’s leader, denied his group had tried to scare anyone. “We weren’t aggressive and we didn’t intimidate anyone,” he said.
“To suggest it’s intimidatory to give out Bibles in a Christian country is nonsense. We live in a free country where you’re allowed to try to recruit other people to your religion – Muslims do it all the time. If there’s anything criminal about that I’d like to hear about it. We videoed it all so you can see for yourself. We just went into the mosques, gave out a few Bibles and leaflets, talked to some elders and left.”
He said the activists visited 10 mosques in Bradford on Saturday, where they gave out about 100 Bibles, and two in Scotland on Sunday. He insisted the group had behaved civilly when visiting the lord mayor’s house and had not trespassed on his property.
Azhar Din, secretary trustee at Cumbernauld mosque in North Lanarkshire, described the visit from Britain First. “The initial approach of the group felt very intimidating, hostile and threatening, and they asked to speak to the imam in a raised voice,” he said. “The event occurred out of the blue and shocked some of the worshippers present.
“However, when the imam appeared they spoke calmly, and the situation became calmer and people were less concerned. The leader presented the imam with some leaflets on grooming’ and a Bible and spoke very calmly, before leaving shortly after.”
Police Scotland said it was investigating complaints made by Glasgowcentral mosque and Cumbernauld mosque in North Lanarkshire on Sunday night.