Hate-fuelled protesters will never be welcome

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It would be wrong to condemn all protesters who gathered outside the Muslim Madani Academy at the weekend.

After all, there may be genuine honest-held reasons behind their opposition to a single-faith school being opened in the city, including viewing any religion to be divisive.

Misunderstanding could also be the root of some people’s aversion, with many citing it being a ‘Muslim-only school – despite Mandani’s director insisting that is not the case.

But regardless of one’s view, what cannot be defended is throwing coins and shouting profanities to make an argument heard.

Once again, the sight of the English Defence League in Portsmouth proved an unsavoury one.

The behaviour of some of its members caused genuine fear on the city’s streets and looked far more about racial hatred than any kind of debate about immigration or single-faith schools.

One protester’s board read: ‘Mosques breed radical Islam. Radical Islam breeds terrorists.’

It is nonsensical views like that which make a mockery of the EDL’s continued insistence it is not racist.

It smears the reputation of the millions of Muslims up and down the country who prove that the religion is largely a peaceful one.

And linking anyone connected with the faith to the extreme actions of terrorist groups like Isil is as intellectually flawed and downright wrong as it would have been to have protested outside a Catholic school decades ago after IRA atrocities.

We should be proud of the growing number of religions and races in the Portsmouth area.

And while debates on immigration and terrorists groups are understandable at a time when those themes dominate the national news agenda, the actions of many protesters at the weekend is not the way to go about it.

Freedom of speech must never be stopped – but aggressive, hate-fuelled scenes like Saturday most certainly should be. So to those concerned, our message is loud and clear: You are not welcome back in Portsmouth.