‘Free speech should not be used to mock’: Muslims take to the streets of Bolton to protest against anti-Islam film

By Dominic Claeys-Jackson

Hundreds of Muslims marched through Bolton yesterday to protest against Innocence of Islam, a YouTube video which mocks the Prophet Muhammad.

Jointly co-ordinated by the Bolton Muslim Action Committee (BMAC) and the Naqshbandia Aslamiya Foundation, the 250-strong rally passed off peacefully.

Armed with placards and chanting throughout, protestors marched from Heywood Park to Victoria Square, where imams addressed supporters in around forty minutes of speech.

Imam Muhammad Arshad al-Misbahi, of Manchester Central Mosque, described the film as ‘against Islam, against the messenger of Islam, and against the teachings of Islam’.

Innocence of Islam depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womaniser and paedophile

“The golden rule of this religion is ‘for you it is your religion, and for me it is my religion’,” he said.

“I have four children. My parents are both alive. But I am here to say I love my prophet more than I love my children. I love my prophet more than I love my own self.

“This is an attack on 1.5billion Muslims in the world and it must stop here.”

Protestors marched down High Street, Derby Street, Moor Lane, Ormrod Street, Blackhorse Street and Ashburner Street, before reaching the Victoria Square quare.

Police controlled disrupted traffic and no counter-demonstration or dissent took place, the increased capacity of officers prepared for such an incident not required.

PROTEST: The march moves into Victoria Square in Bolton

Equipped with a megaphone and upon a raised platform underneath Victoria Square’s charity canopy, speakers were greeted with passion and enthusiasm by the crowd.

Protestor Zahid Khan, 28 from Bolton, said: “It went as we planned it – peaceful. We came to protest about the film against our beloved prophet, peace be upon him.

“At the end of the day, we are here to stand up for all prophets, whether it is a prophet of Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

“We feel freedom of speech should not be used to mock any sort of prophet so that’s why today we are proud to unite with our British Muslim brothers, Christian brothers and Jewish brothers.

“We are a peaceful religion, we are a peaceful people; we are British Muslims and today’s march is all about peace and respect for all of mankind.”

Council Youth Service members worked closely with police to ensure no youngsters were caught up in the event, whilst Environmental Services were on alert.

The Emergency Control Centre was also on standby as a precautionary measure.

Protestor Muhammad Khan, 24, from Bolton, said: “I respect Christianity and every other religion.

“I think that every religion should be about love not war. It should be peaceful, and this today is our message.”

The video in question – Innocence of Islam– was written and produced by American Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and appeared on YouTube in July.

It was brought to the attention of the Arabic world last month, sparking demonstrations and violent protests across the Middle East, which quickly spread to other nations.

Protests worldwide have led to 50 deaths, fatwas, and a bounty on the head of the director.

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