St George 'must be symbol of unity'
The hijab, or headscarf worn by Muslim women, should be as welcome as "bangers and mash" in England, religious groups and campaigners have said in a St George's Day appeal for unity.
The saint has been "hijacked" too often by groups on the "extreme right" seeking to use him as a "symbol of triumphalism and division," groups including the Muslim Council of Britain and inter-faith organisation the Christian Muslim Forum have said.
"We want to promote a new, relaxed and confident, English national identity," they said in a declaration.
"A place where a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash, and no-one is attacked for their race, religion - or lack thereof - or any other belief."
The declaration, issued in advance of St George's Day, said the saint needed to take his "rightful place" as a national symbol of inclusivity "rather than a symbol of hatred."
"As patron saint for England, St George is there for everyone living in England," they said.
"Too often he has been hijacked and used as a symbol of triumphalism and division by those on the extreme right.
"St George needs to take his rightful place as a national symbol of inclusivity rather than a symbol of hatred."
The signatories to the declaration include the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the City Sikhs Network and the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board. The Christian Muslim Forum was set up with the backing of the then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, now Lord Williams of Oystermouth.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, took over as patron of the forum last month.