A GROUP branded as far-right fascists has formed in Oldham sparking fears of a return to racial clashes.
The branch of the English Defence League — recently involved in violent disorder in Birmingham — has been set up by a football hooligan involved in the 2001 Oldham race riots, and already has 50 members.
Equality campaigners fear their emergence could harm the good work done to create community cohesion and have vowed to work even harder to ease tensions.
EDL’s leaders insist they are not racist, far-right or fascist, condemn the BNP and organise only peaceful protests against Islamic extremists.
Tariq Rafique, from Oldham Race Equality Partnership, said people were scared at the prospect. He said: “Their main priority is to undermine the good work done in places like Oldham. “They are trying to move us back into the dark days that no one wanted to ever see. It now pushes us even further to defeat people who are just interested in promoting hate and dividing our communities.”
Race-equality champion Father Phil Sumner said the group was clearly anti-Muslim and survived off creating conflict. He added: “They will try their best to upset what has taken place and at times they will succeed in upsetting people because of their tactics. “Initially, people will be caught up in reacting to them but it creates a lot of energy and does not achieve anything. “The basis of the work we have done and continue to do has established relationships that will enable people in our area to recognise what’s going on and not be dragged into it and allow the good work to be destroyed.”