Protest over school does nothing for integration

COMMENT: The return of good weather shouldn’t bring dread

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There may well be genuine honestly-held reasons why people feel opposed to the opening of a faith school.

Some may disagree on the grounds that all religions can be seen as divisive.

Others may bemoan the fact that education as a whole in this country is becoming more and more fragmented, as the government encourages schools to become academies, and parents to open free schools, both of which can set their own agenda when it comes to the curriculum.

Others, of course, may argue that in fact a religious-backed school will prove an asset to a city as it will promote a rigorous and organised world view.

But regardless of one’s view, we can all agree that organising an alcohol-fuelled march through a city centre on a Saturday lunchtime is not the way to go about voicing one’s disagreement.

The English Defence League’s entry into this debate is not one we welcome.

It said it wanted a peaceful protest, and while the number of arrests was not high, it created a tense feel around the centre of Portsmouth at the weekend.

The EDL’s spokespeople try to stress that it is about integration but present intellectually incoherent arguments about this country ‘turning into Northern Ireland’ with a segregated education system. It claims it is not a racist organisation, but even a cursory internet trawl will reveal that a number of its followers certainly are.

Marches such as the one we saw on Saturday will do nothing for the integration of our society, and only create and emphasise fractures between different communities.

We do not want to see the same untruths being peddled about this school. We have had assurances that the land was not sold on the cheap, as it is constantly being allegedly, and that in fact the Madani Academy placed the highest bid.

We do not want to see more suspicion and hatred being whipped up on our streets. We recognise that protests should not be banned but let us hope that no more will be organised for the future.