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U.K. mosque greets EDL protesters with tea and custard creams

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A smiling crowd gathered outside of York Mosque on Sunday. (The Press)

A small mosque in the U.K. is being praised for extending an olive branch to protesters from the English Defense League, a group that has helped fuel an anti-Muslim backlash following the daytime slaying of a British soldier.

When a small group of EDL supporters turned up at the mosque, they were greeted by worshippers, including children -- some who held signs that read "York Mosque welcomes anyone who condemns extremist violence."

The mosque also had tea, biscuits and custard creams ready for the demonstrators, and invited them in when they arrived. After about 30 to 40 minutes of talking, the EDL supporters agreed to come inside.

The Guardian reports that tensions were defused following the invitation, and that the potential confrontation eventually gave way to an impromptu game of football.

Extremist behaviour 'has to stop'

One protester, Leanne Staven, told the paper she had not come for trouble but wanted her voice to be heard.

"In light of what happened to that soldier in Woolwich there have to be restrictions on people learning extremist behaviour and it has to stop," she said.

Members of York Mosque agreed.

"Under the banner of Islam there are very different politics: democratic politics, the far right, left, central, all over. You can't target a whole community for what one or two people have done," Ismail Miah, president of York Mosque, told The Guardian.

He decried the hacking death of the young soldier, which one suspect called "an eye for an eye" for the British troops fighting Muslims.

"What they've done in London is for their own reasons but there's no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view," said Miah.

Hope during 'troubled times'

Online observers have sent their support to the mosque for a situation well-handled.

When messages from the EDL first came to the attention of mosque community members, an elder at the mosque, University of York Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, called for dialogue.

"We have already condemned that in the strongest language. Every right-minded person in the UK is angry but the anger should not be at your neighbours, the anger should be at the culprits who committed this heinous crime," he told local paper The Press.

"If people sat down and talked, they may come to common, shared ground rather than shouting from a distance and not hearing what the other person is saying."

The openness of the mosque also attracted the support of other faith groups.

Father Tim Jones, who was at the mosque on Sunday, said the response took physical and moral courage.

"I think the world can learn from what happened outside that ramshackle little mosque on Sunday."

The stories told about Muslims

In April, CBC Live Online host Lauren O'Neil spoke to three panelists about how certain narratives can implicate the entire Muslim communities while glazing over the diversity within them.

You can replay the live chat below.

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