While Christians celebrated the birth of Christ in Ilford Town Centre (UK) on Saturday 16th December 2017, after having applied for permission with Redbridge Facilities Management Department for a Christmas celebration, a local Islamic group caused a panic by playing the Azan (a Muslim chant used for call of prayer), that triggered fears of an impending terrorist attack. 

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The peaceful family event which was held in Ilford Town centre on Saturday was organised by 9 local churches in collaboration, and was both well attended and appreciated by local residents (click here).  However at around 2pm during a prayer that was being said on the stage, a guttural Muslim chant was heard causing alarm to the many Christians and non-Christians attending the event. 

It was soon established that a local Muslim group had decided to hold a religious stall in the town centre at the same time as the Redbridge Christian festival, if not in spite of it.  

When approached by the British Pakistani Christian Association, event organisers of the Christian event the Islamic group refused to stop the chant being played.  However, the provocative use of amplified Muslim chanting offended other local people many who were non-Christian and included local Muslims.  Despite a clear indication that their use of an unauthorised PA was causing offence the Muslim group continued their use of the equipment.     

When asked if they had sought permission for their event through the council the Islamic group originally said yes.  They then later asked Mr Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, who was managing the collaborative Christian event, if he was from the council.  After Mr Chowdhry explained that he was not a Council officer but had applied for permission to use a PA system in the town centre the Islamic group ignored any further conversation.  Left with no further option Mr Chowdhry then duly contacted the local Police. 

It would seem bizarre but not impossible that the council gave permission to the Islamic group to hold their stall and amplified Muslim prayers at the same time as the local Churches Christmas event. So this morning Wilson Chowdhry sought clarification from the Head of Licensing for Redbridge Council MR Ed Chaplin. 

Mr Chaplin has quite categorically confirmed the local Islamic group had not sought any permissions and that the unauthorised use of a PA System by them will be discussed at an enforcement action, tasking team next week . He wrote in an email: 

"The 'stall' and group depicted in your photograph below are not given consent from the council to undertake this activity. Consents from the Council are either for a commercial event such as those run by Amber Markets, or for the use of the 'Community Pitch' for charitable, educational or similar purposes. Political, religious, or other groups/persons wishing to deliver a (democratic) message, sometimes set up in the Town Centre without any such consent. There is a risk of being moved on by Police, or contravening the Highways Act for obstructing the highway, where there is no consent or licence issued by the Council. 

"Any group is free to apply for and be granted consent to use the town centre facilities. Allocation of consents is on a first-come, first served basis and consents will not be given when the infrastructure is at capacity. This is to ensure public safety. As advised in point 1) above, any party may set up an activity, but there is a risk that police will ask them to 'move on' or prosecute for highway obstruction. If a group contravenes legislation (such as the use of loudspeakers) this may be dealt with by the respective authorities." 

As we discussed, I am forwarding the issues you have raised for discussion and any necessary enforcement action to the Council's weekly Tasking meeting which will take place tomorrow."   

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