Dear friends

I thought I would share a piece from the Birmingham Mail which quotes my remarks on the upcoming Pegida march and the Hope not Hate pledge calling for unity and hope.

You can sign the Hope Not Hate pledge here.

You can read the Birmingham Mail piece below:

Birmingham urged to unite against Tommy Robinson's Pegida by drinking tea

Politicians, church leaders and unions have urged Birmingham to fight plans for an anti-Islamist march in the city.

And they want city residents to show their opposition - by pledging to have a cup of tea with someone from a different race or religion.

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Reverend David Urquhart, is among those to sign the pledge after controversial campaigners Pegida announced plans for a “peaceful, silent demonstration against radical Islam” in Birmingham on February 6.

Pegida are led by Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, which was involved with violent clashes with police during a demonstration in Birmingham City Centre in 2013.

They insist that they are only opposed to extremism, but critics say the group targets Muslims as a whole.

MPs from all parties are urging Birmingham residents to sign a pledge which states: “As proud people of Birmingham, we wish to declare that Pegida are not welcome and have nothing to offer our city - apart from a huge bill for policing and the clear up operation after they have gone.”

It includes a promise to “sit down and drink a cup of tea with someone from another community that we do not know well and explore what we have in common”.

Opponents of Pegida were also urged to post photos online of themselves with people from different parts of the community.

And the pledge calls on the police to consider whether the planned demonstration “amounts to an incitement to racial and/or religious hatred”.

Birmingham MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) said: “Brummies are proud of the diversity that makes our city great. So we’re not going to let the far right march in here and spread their lies, fear and hatred.

“So we need everyone and anyone to sign Hope Not Hate’s petition - and sign it pronto.”

John Clancy, Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, has signed the pledge, as has Robert Alden, leader of the Conservative opposition group.

The city’s nine Labour MPs and one Conservative MP have signed too.

The Bishop of Aston, Catholic church leaders, the Chair of the Birmingham Methodist District and representatives of Birmingham mosques and synagogues have joined the Bishop of Birmingham in signing the pledge.

Pegida’s Facebook page shows 317 people say they will attend the demonstration and another 423 say they are interested in going.

The protest has been organised by Pegida UK, the British branch of a German organisation called Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) or Pegida for short.

Organisers say they are planning a “silent walk” to take place from 1pm to 3pm on February 6 as part of a Europe-wide day of action involving Pegida branches in different countries. The theme will be “Save Our Country, Save Our Culture, Save Our Future”, according to Pegida.

But anti-fascist group Hope not Hate say the day of action targets Muslim communities.

The pledge can be signed at http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/s/birmingham.

This article was originally published on the Birmingham Mail website here.