Hindu and Muslim community leaders in Leicester have called for an immediate end to weeks of violent disturbances following a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
The widespread disorder – since an Asia Cup cricket match on 28 August – has led to one man being jailed and 47 arrests in total, with a faith leader saying it was sparked by a “country-based dispute” after the cricket.
On Tuesday, city leaders urged “the inciters of hatred” to stop the “provocation and violence – both in thought and behaviour”, and urged troublemakers from outside of the city to stay away.
“Leicester has no place for any foreign extremist ideology that causes division,” they said, in a joint statement.
“We, the family of Leicester, stand in front of you not only as Hindus and Muslims but as brothers and sisters.
“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.
“That is why we are saddened and heartbroken to see the eruption of tension and violence.
“Physical attacks on innocent individuals and unwarranted damage to property are not part of a decent society and, indeed, not part of our faiths. What we have seen is not what we’re about.”
The statement added: “We ask all to respect the sanctity of religious places, both mosques and mandirs alike – whether provocation with loud music, flag bearing, derogatory chants or physical attacks against the fabric of worship. This is not acceptable nor upheld by our faiths.”
Suleman Nagdi, from the city’s Federation of Muslim Organisations, said “loyalties kicked in” after the cricket match.
Tensions escalated over the weekend after unplanned protests on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
The trouble had been fuelled by some “very distorted social media stuff” as well as people coming from outside to “have a bit of a set-to” in Leicester, the city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.
Police had previously warned people against posting “unhelpful speculation online” about incidents.
However Majid Freeman, a Muslim activist from Leicester says the situation has been worsening since May when a young Muslim were attacked.
“They reported it to the police rather than taking things into their own hands. It’s been over three months, three and a half months and police haven’t charged anyone” he says.
Since then he says there have been further incidents, leading to frustration with the police.
“Now everybody’s angry saying that if you took action in the first place why did you not take this case seriously?”
He says reports that the violence began with a cricket match between India and Pakistan on 28 August are wrong.
The MP for Leicester East Claudia Webbe has warned that police and community leaders need to act urgently to put a stop to the violence.
“This is has the potential to spread to other areas or spread to other areas of Leicester and has the potential to spread across the country” she says.
“We’re talking about a minority of people that were intent on causing division and if they think if those people aren’t particularly we stopped, they will find other areas stoke a set of divisions.
“And I think that that’s what will happen. If it’s not caught early it will spread.”
Acting Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Rob Nixon said the investigation will run for “several months” until those responsible are identified and brought to justice.
He told Sky News: “I’m very encouraged by the level of support across the leadership in Leicester – the traditional community leaders, partners to say actually this is a time for coming together, having a really detailed dialogue about some of these tensions, how we’ve got to where we are and how we resolve them and take the issues forward.”
Leicestershire Police said Amos Noronha, 20, was sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon in connection with the violence.
He appeared at Leicester Magistrates’ Court on Monday, the force said, adding several of those who had been detained were from outside of the city, including some people from Birmingham.
Police officers were diverted from the Queen’s funeral to deal with the disorder in the East Midlands city, including from the West Midlands, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Horses from Thames Valley Police were also deployed in the city, the force added.