In the spring of 2013, the Shropshire Bangladesh Welfare Society fulfilled a long held dream to buy a building in Shrewsbury, to set up a mosque and community centre. However, very soon, their planning application became fiercely contested by the EDL and the BNP, who both launched social media campaigns against it. Some of the postings were so extreme and threatening that three people have been arrested.

The small Muslim community were intimidated, and unsure of how to proceed. It just so happened that HOPE not hate were holding open meetings around the country at that time to gauge what issues were effecting communities, and for the first time, we held an event in Shrewsbury. Many of those attending wanted to discussed the controversy. A number of ideas came out of the meeting to dispel myths and show solidarity with the local Muslim community. A new HOPE not hate groups was formed, and they decided to put together an open letter in support of the Muslim community's right to worship. Over 680 people, all but 50 from Shrewsbury, co-signed the letter in just five days, and it was handed in to the leader of Shropshire Council.

EDL supporters gather in Shrewsbury

People protesting against Mosque being built in Shrewsbury

The Bangladeshi Welfare Society, which had bought the dis-used building, were overwhelmed and heartened by the support of those who signed the letter. Up until then, the local Muslim community had to use a room in a local church for prayers.
The letter itself received substantial coverage in the Shropshire Star and on Radio Shropshire. It also brought together dozens of local people who as a result of their success agreed to continue positive anti-racist campaigning in the town.

Here's an email we received into our office after this campaign:

"It is so good to feel that we could reply to the EDL in such a positive manner. I felt so angry in reading the comments against the Prayer Centre but I felt so much better when I knew that hundreds of other people felt like me and were prepared to stand up and be counted. I love hope not hate." - Angela

It is easy to become bogged down in protesting 'against' something or being simply being 'anti', but emails like these - when you can see that we've made a positive difference to communities under attack - make our job all worthwhile.