Islamic extremists will be banned from marching in England if they insist on pressing ahead with their threatened protest, the Government has warned.
Gordon Brown urged Anjem Choudary of Islam4UK not to offend the families of dead soldiers, while thousands joined a Facebook campaign to prevent the group from parading through the Wiltshire town that has become synonymous with the sacrifice of troops in Afghanistan.
Mr Brown said he found the idea of a march through Wootton Bassett by the Islamic group as “abhorrent and offensive”.
Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said he would “have no hesitation” in outlawing the protest if he was asked to do so by police and the Wiltshire town's council.
He said: “The idea that anyone would stage this kind of demonstration in Wootton Bassett fills me with revulsion.
“I find it particularly offensive that the town which has acted in such a moving and dignified way in paying tribute to our troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country should be targeted in this manner.”
Mr Johnson, who would act under the Public Order Act which allows him to intervene on the grounds of public safety, said: “The people behind this stunt seek only to incite hatred and discord.”
Mr Choudary — whose group is a branch of the radical al-Muhajiroun movement — caused uproar when he announced plans for 500 members to parade with empty coffins symbolising Muslim victims through the town.
The 42-year-old former lawyer explained that the march was being held “not in memory of the occupying and merciless British military” but of the Muslims he says have been “murdered in the name of democracy and freedom”.
His group has not submitted a formal request for a march. But Wiltshire Police and council leaders were yesterday holding a meeting to decide what their options were after pleas to Mr Choudary to reconsider fell on deaf ears.
Mr Choudary's followers caused outrage in Luton when they protested against soldiers returning from Iraq, prompting local Muslims to turn on the group and force them out of town.