When I approached a British police officer to ask if I was allowed to enter the protest as a non-Muslim, which was barricaded off across the street from where I was standing near Parliament (I asked the question because I didn't see any non-Muslims inside the barricades), he informed me that I could try but that it wasn't a good idea. The implication was that I could be hurt or verbally abused. He also told me that if I attempted to enter, the male protestors would force me to the designated female section.
The stage was put in the middle of the protest and all-male speakers faced the Muslim men in the crowd while their backs were to the women. The speakers never turned around to address the corralled women behind them. An electronic sign placed behind the stage read, "Be careful with Muhammad," and speakers called on the UK government to condemn and criminalize offensive speech against their prophet.
The protest was part of the MAF's "Campaign for Civility." Attendants were protesting "absolute" free speech and the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Protesters were carrying signs that read, "Free speech = hatred toward Muslims," "What is free speech?" "To insult is not freedom," "We love Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) more than our lives," "Muslims for global civility," "Learn some manners," and others. "Charlie Hebdo abuse factory," was also seen printed on a sign and protestors condoned the brutal murders of Paris editors a month ago for drawing and publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
"The recent re-publishing of the cartoons, caricatures and depictions of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by Charlie Hebdo magazine and other publishers is a stark reminder that freedom of speech is regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred. Such actions are deliberately insulting and provoking to Muslims worldwide and as British citizens, we believe that these publications will continue to 'sow the seeds of hatred' and damage community relations," printed MAF material handed out by organizers read.
"Those who claim they are championing Freedom of Expression by publishing the insulting depictions of the Holy Prophet Muhammed are in fact delusional in their claim. They have abused the right of Freedom of Expression to engineer an Islamophobic discourse in the public arena," the material also read. "Historically, Muslims did not oppress free-thinking and today, 1.7 billion Muslims will not submit to irrational and Uncivilised Expressionists. It is one of the key objectives of the Liberal Chauvinists to bully the Muslim community into accepting their barbaric standards of discourse by ironically labeling the Muslims as 'barbarians' and 'backwards.'"
The Muslim Action Forum, formerly the Muslim Action Committee, is a newly re-branded Muslim Brotherhood front group.