Leicester violence could spread beyond city, warns local MP Claudia Webbe

Violent clashes between groups of mainly Hindu and Muslim young men will spread beyond Leicester to other towns and cities without central government and police intervention, a local MP has warned. Claudia Webbe, whose Leicester East constituency has been at the centre of several incidents over the past month, said ministers needed to clamp down on “extremist rightwing ideology” and misinformation being spread through social media. The Guardian: Leicester violence could spread beyond city, warns local MP Claudia Webbe

A local MP has warned that violent fights between groups of mostly Hindu and Muslim young men will spread outside of Leicester to other towns and cities if the central government and police don’t step in.

According to former Labour MP (now independent MP) Claudia Webbe, whose Leicester East constituency has been the scene of many events over the last month. On Saturday evening, there were violent outbursts and a tense confrontation between groups of Muslim and Hindu men and the police.

According to the Guardian, 18 individuals were detained during a rally on Sunday. Eight of them were from outside Leicestershire.

Webbe said: “The reality is that we have fringe elements led and inspired by extremism and rightwing ideology rearing its head in the UK and in the peaceful city of Leicester.”

“If we do not understand the root cause, this will spread beyond Leicester to other areas. The government needs to intervene and ensure that social media platforms stop this from getting much, much worse.”

Hindu and Muslim groups in the city released a joint statement on Tuesday urging harmony and peace. It read: “Our two faiths have lived harmoniously in this wonderful city, for over half a century. We arrived in this city together, we faced the same challenges together we fought off racist haters together and collectively made this city a beacon of diversity, and community cohesion.”

Videos that were circulating online over the weekend of a man tearing down a flag outside of a Hindu temple and another video of a flag being burnt exacerbated the situation in Leicester. India’s High Commission issued a statement on Twitter strongly denouncing “the violence perpetrated against the Indian community in Leicester, and vandalisation of premises and symbols of Hindu religion”.

In letters sent at the beginning of the month and again before the latest unrest over the weekend, MP Webbe urged caution and sent information of “incitement to hate targeting at those of Muslim and of Hindu faith”.

In one letter, Webbe claimed that several constituents had expressed concerns to her that “underlying Islamophobia in parts of Leicester’s communities, rather than an isolated incident,” was one of the factors contributing to violence.

Days later, on September 14, Webbe wrote to the chief constable alleging “ongoing disturbances” and “incitement to hate” occurrences that occurred on September 5 and September 9, which led to the execution of two arrests.

Constituents had informed her that tensions in the neighbourhood may be more pervasive and unrelated to the India vs Pakistan cricket match that took place on August 28 as part of the Asia Cup competition in the United Arab Emirates.

In a letter to the police that was sent before the most recent occurrences over the weekend, Webbe spoke of “incitement to hate being targeted at those of Muslim and Hindu faith, through hastily arranged protests”.

One such request was for a demonstration against “Muslim hate crime” on September 11 at 9pm on Belgrave Road, in the centre of the constituency’s mostly Hindu neighbourhood.

“I have no doubt that this fake event was designed to provoke additional clashes and to cause disharmony and distrust,” Webbe told the police.

She said that during the weekend, she witnessed proof that gangs had arrived in Leicester ready to engage in violence. As “I walked around the constituency and saw blue surgical gloves [worn to avoid leaving fingerprints] and dozens of black balaclavas discarded in the back streets. Weapons have been found by the police. It is leaving people frightened to leave their homes,” she said.

After being convicted guilty of harassment, Webbe, who was elected as a Labour MP but now sits as an independent, asked for the police to coordinate a national response and for social media corporations to step in.

“Much of this violence and hate is being shared on social media and through online communications. It is racism and fascism and it is rearing its ugly head. It is a national problem that requires a national response by the police and other agencies.”

“The social media firms – TikTok and Twitter and WhatsApp – are the mediums that are being used and they should bear some responsibility,” she said.

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