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Tension in London flares in mosque stand-off

Muslim protesters scuffle with anti-Islam group

Britain needs new policies to tackle issues that racists exploit, the communities secretary said Saturday, following ugly scenes outside a London mosque.

Riot police arrested 10 people Friday as they intervened to quell clashes outside the mosque in Harrow, northwest London, on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

About 1,000 mostly Muslim protestors, many with masks over their faces, were involved in running scuffles following a demonstration by a small anti-Islamic group.

Communities Secretary John Denham told the Guardian newspaper that there was a need for a broader strategy from government to "undercut issues that racists try to exploit."

Ministers would in the coming weeks unveil a government program targeted at mainly white, working class communities, he said, according to the daily.

"You need to be prepared to let people's real underlying fears and concerns come out, but to be able to address them frankly and openly," he said.

He gave the example of perceptions of unfair allocation of public housing and new jobs, and hinted at changes to let local people to "influence and shape" better how resources are distributed in their area.

Police said they were attacked with bricks and bottles outside Harrow Central Mosque.

One person was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace, and nine others for possession of offensive weapons including bottles of bleach, a hammer and a chisel.

Police moved in after a crowd of angry Muslim youths, some wearing masks over their faces, threw sticks and stones at a small group of about a dozen mostly shaven-headed protestors.

You need to be prepared to let people's real underlying fears and concerns come out, but to be able to address them frankly and openly

Communities Secretary John Denham

Compared to fascists

Denham compared those behind the anti-Islamic protest to the 1930s British Union of Fascists.

"If you look at the types of demonstrations they've organised... it looks pretty clear that it's a tactic designed to provoke and to get a response and hopefully create violence," he said.

They "have among them people who know what exactly they're doing.

"The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups."

The demonstration in Harrow was organized by Stop Islamification of Europe, which said ahead of the demo that it planned to remain peaceful.

Stephen Gash of the SIOE -- whose motto is "Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense" -- said before the demo: "We don't want any more mosques until all this hatred is sorted out."

But the violence erupted when they were confronted by hundreds of protestors who the police said were either members of a group called United Against Fascism, or Muslims providing support to the mosque.

Concerns about violence have been heightened by clashes last weekend at a rally against Islamic fundamentalism held by a right-wing group, the English Defense League.

The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups

John Denham