Peterborough’s mosques joined together for a peace conference to confront what it believes is an unfair portrayal of Islam.
The inter-faith conference held last Saturday at the Faizan-e-Madinah Mosque in Gladstone Street was attended by over 160 people, including guest speaker Lord Nazir Ahmed, member of the House of Lords.
Other guests included police area commander for Peterborough Superintendent Melanie Dales, Bishop of Peterborough the Rt Revd Donald Allister, and the chief executive of Peterborough City Council, Gillian Beasley.
Abdul Choudhuri, chairman of the mosque where the event was held, said Islam’s message of peace was being distorted by a tiny majority.
He believes Lord Ahmed “spoke very well about the contribution Muslims have made in this country. In the First World War and Second World War Muslims sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the world.”
Mr Choudhuri said the mosque promotes “peace and harmony” throughout society, stating: “A lot of people are ignorant and do not know what goes on in mosques. There’s a total misconception.”
And he said there is a lot done in mosques to tackle extremism and sexual abuse through weekly seminars and by encouraging people to ask questions.
He added: “We should not be lenient with these people. Anyone who commits these kinds of crimes should be locked up and the key thrown away. Britain is one of the most tolerant countries and we should respect that.”
Police chief calls for increased vigilence
Peterborough’s police chief is warning residents to be vigilant against any sign of extremism.
Superintendent Melanie Dales said a city like Peterborough could be targeted by extremists.
Her warnings come with western countries on high alert following attacks in Paris last November by gunmen. Suicide bomb attacks also hit London on July 7, 2005.
Supt Dales, area commander for Peterborough, said the terrorism threat nationally is ‘severe’, the second highest level below ‘critical’.
She added: “People should be vigilant and report anything that seems suspicious.
“We are a big city so could very easily be targeted.”