A HIGHLY controversial Muslim political organisation, under constant watch by the Home Office, met in Ilford to discuss ways of responding to attacks on its religion.
About 250 people joined the Stand for Islam gathering at the Ilford Community Centre, Eton Road, Ilford to hear speakers from the local branch of the Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party).
Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in some countries, and in 2005, then Prime Minister Tony Blair announced he planned to outlaw the organisation - a threat never carried out.
But the group officially rejects violence and denies critics' claims it is a "conveyer belt" for terrorism by encouraging people to believe they cannot be both British and Muslim.
Spokesman Mobeen Anway said the meeting in Ilford was designed to dispel some of the myths surrounding Islam.
Mr Anway said: "In the face of negative publicity about Islam, we want to create a more positive impression of our faith."
He said calls were made for the Muslim community to engage in positive dialogue to highlight Islamic ideals as a way of life.
Speakers Akmal Asghar and Naseem Ghani urged Muslims not to stay silent in the face of criticism and ridicule of Islam.
Hizb ut-Tahrir aims to establish an Islamic state across the Middle East, based on the system practised by the Prophet Muhammed in Medinah in the first years of Islam.
Its website states: "Hizb ut-Tahrir is convinced that the change we seek must start in the minds of people and we do not accept for people or societies to be forced to change by violence and terror.
"Consequently, Hizb ut-Tahrir does not advocate or engage in violence."
Speaking of the decision to allow the meeting, Bashir Chaudhry, founder of Ilford Community Centre, said: "In the past, we have stopped them from holding meetings.
"If they are planning to discuss controversial issues which we don't agree with, or which could be damaging to the wider Muslim community, then we won't allow it.
"But if they are just wishing to hold a meeting to discuss non-controversial issues like this, then who are we to stop them?"
A Home Office spokesman said: "Hizb ut-Tahrir remains a group of real concern and as such is kept under constant review.
Source: Ilford Recorder (English), h/t UP Pompeii