Pressure mounts to ban Wootton Bassett Muslim march

Candy Bellinger

With public anger surrounding the planned march through Wootton Bassett by Islamic extremists growing by the hour, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has today insisted that he will support any request to ban the controversial event.

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Since Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary announced at the weekend that 500 members of the radical group Islam4UK would parade through the Wiltshire town, renowned for honouring Britain's war dead, a Facebook petition aimed at getting the march banned has gained some 350,000 followers.

Now the scale of the Facebook campaign has forced the Government to publicly condemn the march and Tory leader David Cameron has also voiced his disapproval.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that he was "completely disgusted" at what he called an "abhorrent" protest.

Choudary, 42, claims that members of the parade will carry empty coffins to symbolise the Muslims "mercilessly murdered" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So far, the bodies of over 100 servicemen and women have been driven through Wootton Bassett and each time, the residents have come out to pay their respects but many see the cleric's plan as designed to cause as much offence as possible.

Choudary, though, is refusing to call off the march, saying: "The objective of this procession is not against the people of Wootton Bassett. It is about making a political statement."

Mr Johnson said: "Those behind this stunt seek only to incite hatred and discord."

Whilst fears of the protest turning violent are clearly very real, could banning the march serve only to encourage more extremism amongst the Muslim community?

What do you think? Should the march be banned or is the freedom to protest of greater importance?