London Mayor Ken Livingstone will today (Monday 20th November) join cross party and multi-faith speakers at a meeting at Methodist Central Hall to defend freedom of religious and cultural expression.
The meeting, which follows the recent high level of attacks on the Muslim community and is organised by British Muslim Initiative and Liberty, will bring together speakers representing all of the main political parties, different faiths, the trade unions and the peace movements.
Announcing his attendance Mr Livingstone said “Over recent weeks we have seen a demonisation of Muslims only comparable to the demonisation of Jews from the end of the nineteenth century”
“As at that time, the attack on Muslims in reality threatens freedoms for all of us, which took hundreds of years to win – freedom of conscience and freedom of cultural expression. Every person who values their right to follow the religion of their choice or none should stand with the Muslim communities today.”
“The living standard of every Londoner depends upon the ability of this city to welcome companies and people from every part of the world. That would be impossible if we succumbed to the threat to religious and cultural tolerance, which the new demonisation of Muslims represents. As Mayor of London I want to make clear this city has no intention of taking that path, which would destroy the international openness, and excellent community relations upon which our prosperity depends.”
“I cannot believe it is a coincidence that this entire artificial pseudo debate has been stirred up at a time when the credibility of the entire war and occupation of Iraq is collapsing before our eyes. Muslims and all of us have a right to call for a different policy within the democratic process.”
Other speakers include Jon Cruddas MP who is running to be Labour deputy leader, Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti, Conservative MP and Shadow Spokesman on Community Cohesion Dominic Grieve and Andrew Stunell MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Community and Local Government and former Baptist preacher.
Anas Altikriti of the British Muslim Initiative said the event would “mark the first step towards establishing a national coalition against Islamaphobia”.