A UKIP councillor who wrongly branded a religious Islamic procession in Ilford a “call to war” on Twitter has been blasted.
Cllr Rod Butler tweeted a link to a video of the annual Jaloos through Ilford town centre, branding it a “nice call to war” and claiming police did not intervene because they “didn’t understand language”.
Following his tweet last Monday, Ale Natiq, who lives in Ilford, accused the Epping Forest district councillor of “scaring people using made up information”.
The 30-year-old said the annual event had been organised by the Shia community to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali, the first Shia Imam, and was an important date marked across the world with similar processions.
Responding to Cllr Butler’s tweet, Mr Natiq said: “This clearly shows not just Rod’s lack of knowledge on the subject he is talking about but also sheer dishonesty.
“This was not a random event, it was a pre-planned event which takes place at this location every year with the permission of the council and the police.
“Rod has claimed that it was a ‘call for war’ but has failed to back it up with evidence.
“He claims police could not do anything because they didn’t understand the language but maybe Rod can translate and provide us evidence which part of the event/speech was a ‘call to war’?”
Mr Natiq, who runs the group named Progressive Shia Activists campaigning for a secular Pakistan, said speakers at the Jaloos used Panjabi and Urdu to share hymns and nohas – religious anthems – recalling the life and tragedies of the holy Imams to “rekindle the spirit of standing up to injustice and rejecting tyranny”.
“The tradition of Azadari is a highly inclusive cultural tradition which assimilates local cultures and welcomes people of all faith or no faith,” he added.
Responding to the comments, Cllr Butler – who did not attend the event – admitted he had “limited knowledge” of Islam and its history and said he was grateful for Mr Natiq’s explanation.
“However to an onlooker who has no knowledge of this kind of event, the extremely large gathering could be quite frightening and intimidating,” he told the Recorder.
“Tolerance is important and I hope that if there was a British event like this in an Arab country about the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, the host Arab country would be equally tolerant.
“We have seen events like this in the open many times before in other areas, and where translations were made, it was found that ‘preachers’ were actually inciting violence.
“Today our young are also being encouraged to take up arms and go to fight in Syria by ‘preachers’.
“It would be in the organisers’ interest to give a brief translation in English to members of the public who may be concerned, or possibly hold the event in a mosque where everyone there understands the history and the ritual of the event.”