Public prayers and orange jumpsuits: How London’s Muslims stood up to Trump
Islamophobia and foreign policy top Muslims' concerns at London anti-Trump rally (MEE/Kaamil Ahmed)
LONDON, United Kingdom – Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of London to send an unwelcoming message to US President Donald Trump who is on an official visit to the UK. The demonstrations featured a diverse mix of ideologies and political leanings, all united by opposing Trump's bigotry, which they say stands at odds with British values.
While scores of people had begun to amass outside Oxford Circus Station in Central London, holding whistles and "Trump stinks" masks, 19-year-old Raya Bayoumi began the protest differently.
Armed with a prayer mat and placard, the young protester joined hundreds of other Muslims who had come to Cavendish Square gardens, metres from the main demonstration, to hold Friday prayers.
Organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa and the Muslim Association of Britain, the demonstrators prayed publicly as an act of solidarity with American Muslims living under Trump.
Trump's visit had turned controversial within hours of his arrival.
'What worries me about Trump more than anything is what he says about the war on terror,' protester says (MEE/ Kaamil Ahmed)
His critics say he the US president is bringing his bigoted rhetoric to Britain by promoting fear of immigrants and Muslims during his visit.
The US president renewed his attacks on London's first Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan on Tuesday and said that immigration is killing Europe.
Aware of Trump's latest episode, Muslim protesters joined the thousands of demonstrators in the heart of London to denounce the US president's presence.
"This is our way of resisting Trump and what he stands for," Bayoumi told Middle East Eye.
"We knew Trump was coming, and we wanted to show the world that Muslims are against this man in a way that represents our faith and message in a positive light."
Bayoumi, wearing a black abaya, began to walk towards Regent Street. Following the lead of other Muslim activists, she held a poster featuring an orange bin emblazoned with the phrase "Dump Trump".
The protest was due to end in London's Trafalgar Square, where a rally would take place.
Trump and Brexit
Trump's visit had come at the worst possible time. Following the referendum to leave the European Union in 2016, Britain saw the highest spike in religious and racial hate crimes.
Amina Hassan, a Somali student based in London, voiced concerns over the possible effects of Trump's visit on Britain post-Brexit.
"Trump's visit has encouraged the far-right in this country," said Hassan as she reacted to a picture of UK Prime Minister Theresa May holding Trump's hand.
"What kind of message does this send when the leader of our country embraces a man who has been openly racist towards us, or does she care more about a trade deal with the US?"
'This is our way of resisting Trump and what he stands for' (MEE/Kaamil Ahmed)
Broader concerns surfaced amongst Muslim protesters, including civil rights, weapon sales to repressive governments in the Middle East and foreign policy.
Hassan Abdul, a junior doctor, had travelled from Wales to take part of the demonstration.
Walking down towards Regent Street, crowds began to cheer the doctor and other activists dressed in orange jumpsuits to condemn the failed Global War on Terror. They had come in chains and marched single-file.
Trump had vowed to keep the controversial detention facility Guantanamo Bay open and load it with alleged militants despite outcries from rights groups about reports of abuse and violations of US and international law.
"What worries me about Trump more than anything is what he says about the war on terror. While his predecessor attempted to shut down Guantanamo Bay, he's done the opposite and kept it open," said Abdul.
"It's concerning, but we are ready for this challenge. The thousands who have come here symbolise that we will keep fighting no matter what."
Khaled Bassoum, an Iraqi student-activist in London, came to the protest dressed as powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
He accused Trump of backing bin Salman in killing innocent civilians in Yemen and across the Middle East, as he handed fake dollars to another man dressed in a Trump costume.
"We are wearing these chains to symbolise that money, and the arms are the basis for Trump's relationship in the Gulf," he said.
"The dog leashes we have here is here to represent how subservient Trump is to Mohammed Bin Salman and (UAE crown prince) Bin Zayed."
Trump has praised the two royals for buying US-manufactured weapons but rarely criticised their human rights abuses domestically or in Yemen where they are leading a war that has killed more than 10,000 people.
As Trump met with Queen Elizabeth in the afternoon, a giant blimp depicting him as a baby in diapers flew above the nation's parliament in London.
While Trump says he was "saddened" by the protests, opposition continues to mount in other parts of the country as the US president heads to Scotland, which he has described as his ancestral home.