A POPULAR faith leader has called for religious groups in Swindon to unite to promote tolerance and mutual respect.

Shahid Aziz, who lives in Chiseldon, has for the past three years been president of Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore, an organisation, based in London, which seeks to promote the progressive face of Islam.

And with the backing of the town’s myriad religious communities, Shahid is hoping to establish what he describes as “a sense of harmony among residents”.

He said: “I am seeking support in establishing a forum in Swindon which will, if not eliminate, at least minimise extremism and intolerance in our beautiful town.

“The Ahmadiyya Association for the Propagation of Islam is a progressive Islamic association. We aim to bring different faith communities together by preaching that we should respect the founders and followers of all religions.

“We have always engaged in inter-faith dialogue ever since out organisation was founded in 1890 and we want this to continue and to expand.”

The motto of Shahid’s organisation is ‘Islam stands for I Shall Love All Mankind’, and it is this spirit he is hoping to cultivate in Swindon.

Following the Westminster terror attacks in March, Shahid condemned the attackers who he claimed possessed a “perverted understanding of Islam”.

He said: “We, the Muslims of Britain, condemn all the cowardly and criminal acts wherever they are committed and whoever commits them.

“We will not be cowed and we shall fight such criminals to uphold values of Islam prevalent in the UK such as freedom of expression, rule of law, protection of the disadvantaged and our democratic institutions.

“Let these criminals not divide us and stand united to show these criminals that their evil plans will not succeed.”

His call for unity has been supported by other faith leaders in the town.

Canon Michael Johnson, of Wroughton Parish Church, said: “The more conversations we have together the better we understand each other.

“People of faith have something very significant to offer to the community and together we can bring about a better community and a better world.”