Churches for Bradford say:Don't be deceived-the EDL is not Christian
The 'English Defence League' have a cross of St George as their badge, with Latin words which mean: 'by this sign, conquer'.
They claim that they are against Muslim extremism, and want to defend the English way of life which they believe is threatened by Islamic customs whether sharia law or wearing the veil. They also support British troops in Afghanistan – some EDL members are themselves ex-military.
Let's be clear: there are real debates to be had about the nature of British society, and how people of different cultures and faiths (or no faith) can live together in mutual respect while managing our inevitable differences in a civil and non-violent way. We also need to allow for principled dissent to aspects of British foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, while supporting the brave men and women who risk their lives for our country. However, the EDL is hijacking some genuine concerns for their own agenda.
Why are they 'English' and not 'British'? It's because many Muslims are proud to be British, along with other people in this country of Asian or African heritage. Using the word 'English' is a hidden way of emphasising the priority of those with white ancestry. We should rather value all British people for who they are, and show the tolerance and acceptance for which the rest of the world has so often admired us.
How would the EDL 'Defend' us? Their badge quotes the motto of the (Yorkshire) Emperor Constantine, who conquered the Roman Empire by force, with a cross as his standard. But the Christian cross is utterly different from this. It stands for a God who comes in his Son to suffer and die for us, to win us over by love – not by violence and conquest. St George was actually a brown-skinned Palestinian who died for his faith in Jesus, who is revered by many Muslims as well as by Christians.
The way to encourage mutual respect between religions and communities is not by provocative demonstrations, but by getting to know and understand each other. This is how to defeat extremists, whether nationalist or religious.
It's ironic that the EDL want to stop Muslim women wearing the veil in public, but then sell on their website 'burka hoodies' and red-and-white face masks, so they can hide their own faces from others.
If you're concerned about the genuine issues the EDL exploit, don't stoop to their level. Instead, get engaged with your neighbours. At the Cathedral we will provide a safe space in the autumn to discuss some of these sensitive issues – look out for the publicity and come to listen and have a say, whether Christian or Muslim, Sikh or secular. In Manningham and Barkerend there are goodwill gatherings of people of different faith: ask your place of worship about them and go and join in. Use the events of Interfaith Week in November to meet people of different faith.
We value our country immensely. We believe that the Christian faith has profoundly shaped our heritage and has something unique to offer to everyone in the world. And we believe in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that 'good is stronger than evil, and love is stronger than hate.'
Revd Barbara Glasson, Methodist Church
Revd Chris Howson, City Mission Priest