UK Far Right groups holds Islamophobic demonstration

At least 30 people were arrested Saturday night following a demonstration by a far-right group against a planned mosque construction in the small English town of Dudley. The protest was led by the English Defense League or EDL that saw participation of up to 1,000 of its members amid a heavy police presence.

“I have never seen so many policemen here,” said Maria Mina, owner of the only cafe shop that was open on what supposed to have been the busiest day for business in the small town. Extra police force was deployed in Dudley since early hours of Saturday and entrance to the town center was restricted for vehicles as hundreds of fascist EDL members came to the town by cars, coaches and trains.
EDL members were allowed to march to Priory Road where they made harsh anti-Islam speeches, carried Islamophobic banners and English flags in front of the Dudley Council. “Islam go to hell” and “More Islam less freedom” read some of the banners.

In a counter demonstration organized by United Against Fascism approximately 50 meters away from the Dudley Central Mosque at Castle Street, Dudley’s local people repeatedly gave out the messages of unity and togetherness. “Love music, hate racism” was the main slogan of the gathering that hosted about 300 people.

‘People grab our veils, call us terrorists and want us dead’: What it’s really like to be a Muslim woman in Britain

6th May 2014

“It is something I have got used to since 9/11. From being called Osama Bin Laden to Paki-terrorist I have heard it all,” Zab Mustefa, a British Muslim journalist, who specialises in women’s rights and culture.

“Either you’re with us. Or you’re with the terrorists,” announced the then president of the USA George W Bush in a sombre tone at a press conference following the attacks. And many people decided that all Muslims were against ‘us’. Everything was under scrutiny. Their style of dress, their beliefs, their way of life. People that had never even read the Qur’an believed they had more knowledge than Islamic scholars.

A report from the University of Birmingham, ‘Maybe we are hated: The experience and impact of anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim women’, says Muslim women are repeated victims of anti-Muslim hate. It cites verified figures from Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which show attacks on Muslim women account for 58 per cent of all incidents reported to it. Of those, 80 per cent were visually identifiable (wearing hijab, niqab, or other clothing associated with Islam).

Zab Mustefa also said “I feel unsafe, my husband told me not to go into London, both of us were worried that I may be attacked or have my hijab pulled etc. He was also really angry with me when I didn’t tell the police, as he said they ought to know that Muslim women are being harassed. I was just shocked because it wasn’t the expected type that you see on EDL marches. It was ‘educated’ people.”

It’s not even solely white British people who make these comments – it’s also fellow ethnic minorities, although the really angry rhetoric has come from white British people. Sadly with so much Islamophobic rhetoric being used, in some cases by politicians looking to score points by feeding people’s fears, this problem may get even worse.

 

TAGS: Issues in Politics, Islamic Practice and Jurisprudence, Youth and Pop Culture, Public Opinion and Islam in the Media

Lee Rigby’s sacrifice should be commemorated with a public memorial

12th May 2014

We were disappointed to read about the apparent decision to refuse a request for a public memorial to Fusilier Lee Rigby, and hope this can be reconsidered. Lee Rigby’s murder shocked our country. In its wake, we saw Britons from every faith and none come together, both locally and nationally, to mourn his death, to commemorate his service, and to reject the hatred of his killers.

Extreme groups such as the BNP and EDL did try to exploit the tragedy, but found very little public support, being widely seen as part of the problem too. The Rigby family, in their grief, were consistently strong voices in challenging the tiny, unrepresentative minority who sought to use his name to stir up hatred.

If the family’s desire is to have a memorial, neither they, nor the British public as a whole, should be denied the chance to commemorate Lee Rigby’s service and sacrifice in a proper way.

 

Signed,

 

Sughra Ahmed

President, Islamic Society of Britain

 

Mohammed Amin

Deputy Chairman, Conservative Muslim Forum

 

Sunny Hundal

Journalist

 

Dilwar Hussein

New Horizons in British Islam

 

Sunder Katwala

British Future

 

Nick Lowles

Hope Not Hate

 

Imam Ajmal Masoor

 

Stephen Pollard

Editor, Jewish Chronicle

 

Stephen Shashoua

Director, Three Faiths Forum

 

Julie Siddiqi

The Big Iftar

Is the party over for the EDL?

October 18, 2013

 

The English Defence League is likely to splinter into smaller regional units with some supporters shifting to more extreme movements in the wake of the leadership’s resignation, according to a former member of the police unit that spent years covertly monitoring the group.

Even before last week’s shock decision by Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll to abandon the anti-Islamic street movement they formed in 2009 – saying they no longer wished to be associated with the far-right extremists that came to their rallies – there were signs that the group was splintering and losing support.

Local EDL leaders held a Skype conference on 9 October in which they agreed to establish a new committee of regional organisers. They chose a new chairman, Tony Ablitt, a former organiser with the British Freedom Party, a short-lived political front for the EDL. They are due to hold a meeting on 26 October to discuss the group’s future strategy.

“The legacy of the EDL is a few thousand young, working class men who have been radicalised and handed a warped view of British Muslims and their beliefs,” said Matthew Goodwin, associate professor at the University of Nottingham. “It is unlikely that now, with the resignations, those men are simply going to abandon those views.”

Matthew Goodwin, from the University of Nottingham, stated that it would be hard for Mr Robinson to change.

“He comes from a section of society that is already likely to feel left behind by the economic transformation of Britain and under threat from immigration and seemingly ‘new’ groups in society, like Muslims,” said Matthew Goodwin. “Those views were forged during his younger years, so it is distinctly unlikely that he will fundamentally overhaul his beliefs. Once we are hard-wired in this way, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to move in a radically different direction.”

 

The Independent:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/is-the-party-over-for-the-edl-8889961.html

My 18 months with former EDL leader Tommy Robinson by Mohammed Ansar

October 18, 2013

 

It was April 2012, and it was my first face-to-face meeting with Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), the leader of the English Defence League (EDL). We were appearing on a BBC1 programme called The Big Questions. Little did I know this would be the start of an 18-month journey together that would end with Tommy leaving the EDL.

It was an odd position to find myself in. I had spent years as an outspoken advocate against Islamophobia, working to counter extremism and trying to address what I felt was an emerging civil rights crisis for Muslims in Britain. Muslim communities everywhere were under threat, attacks against mosques and individuals were at epidemic levels and rising. Yet the Islamic tradition is that you do not try to crush those who wish to oppress you, you try to educate them. You pray for them. You enlighten them. Despite the heated exchanges that day, I was able to extend to Tommy an offer: that we have dinner.

Three hours of debate followed. Tommy meanwhile seemed to enjoy ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. He liked his steak on the rare side. At the end of it we both tweeted two statements from Tommy – that I “must be reading a different Qur’an to everyone else” and “if every Muslim was like you there would be no problem”. The response was shocked and sceptical. That I had passed the Tommy Robinson test for acceptability was nothing to be pleased about. He had to meet more people. We needed to do more work.

So our journey together continued. Despite both my mother and wife questioning my sanity, I had always wanted to stand up and address an EDL meeting, and come face to face with Tommy’s supporters. A town hall-style meeting was arranged at a hotel in Luton. Because of the risks, the crowd was limited to around 50 people, and I was given a four-strong security team, including my own bodyguard, a Jehovah’s Witness called Rudi. It was a stressful experience. The anger and hostility from EDL members surfaced over things I thought long gone, with the National Front-daubed brick walls of 1970s Britain: coming over here and taking our jobs and our women, erosion of culture (they even believed they were limited from practising Christmas), multiculturalism, and immigration. It was important to listen – they are not uncommon views. Painful ones.

At the end of the meeting, I had to break my fast, as required in the month of Ramadan. I invited Tommy back to my room and he stood with me as I offered a dua supplication/prayer. We ate food from a local Indian takeaway. Tommy’s insistence on refusing halal meat on camera was a regular theme throughout our time together, despite the fact he eats it at Nandos and his favourite Turkish kebab shop. As I prayed maghrib (sunset prayers) he watched, quietly. Tommy has always been much better to talk to in a one-to-one setting. We could have a real conversation. When the camera was rolling, I felt we rarely saw the real Tommy.

Later Tommy held a conference with Maajid Nawaz, of the counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, and announced he was quitting the EDL. I was cautiously optimistic. Throughout the journey my aim had been simple – to see if we could move Tommy on his views and to see if the British public would shift on theirs. My view had always been that any new future should be conditional on Tommy distancing himself from former extremist pals, and that shared ideology.

My journey with Tommy has shown one thing – that to embrace diversity in modern society we need to work out our differences. It’s often a messy and imperfect process, but it’s vital that we remain hopeful. Discourse and dialogue can work. How else can we tackle hate and prejudice?

 

The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/19/my-journey-with-edl-tommy-robinson

Selfridges faces backlash after giving EDL leader Tommy Robinson free steak lunch

Department store Selfridges has courted controversy again after giving leader of the English defence League Tommy Robinson a free steak to apologise after a member of staff refused to serve them. The menswear employee was temporarily suspended for violating company policy after refusing to serve Robinson’s friend. Robinson, a convicted criminal who leads anti-Islam protests across the country, was in the Oxford Street store with his friend who was looking to purchase a pair of jeans.

 

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, filmed himself challenging the shop assistant who reportedly refused to help Robinson’s friend, saying “f**k off, I am not serving you” after asking if he was with the EDL leader. Robinson said he assumed the shop assistant was a Muslim as he “had Mo on his name tag”.

 

A spokesman said anyone was welcome to shop in the store “regardless of political opinion”. To apologise, Selfridges gave Robinson and his friend a three course meal at the store’s in-house Hix Restaurant, Champagne and Caviar Bar, which included a prawn cocktail starter, steak and chips, finished off by chocolate cake and ice cream.

 

Robinson has insisted his friend is not associated with the far-right group.

 

The decision to give Robinson and his friend a free meal was met with wide spread criticism on Twitter, with many threatening to boycott the store.

 

East London mosque awaits EDL march with fear and frustration

Among staff at the East London mosque, the sense of anger at plans by the English Defence League to demonstrate nearby on Saturday is amplified by their belief that there are more constructive things they could be doing with their time than planning how to respond to the far-right group. The far-right group’s latest attempt to march into Tower Hamlets has been banned from entering the heart of the borough, where the mosque is, but it will still pass too close for comfort.

 

The EDL is expected to muster between 1,000 and 2,000 supporters, while the court heard that several thousand people were expected to turn out to oppose it, making it one of the biggest anti-fascist demonstrations of recent years. The EDL’s failure to overturn the route restriction was some relief to Khan given that EDL marches have a tendency to descend into violence and when they have previously attempted to enter the area thousands of young Muslims have gone out on to the streets to oppose them.

 

Khan says the EDL first focused on East London mosque after an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches into the mosque and the group that runs it, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), in 2007. The programme accused the IFE of seeking to change society in accordance with Islamist values and the mosque of hosting hate preachers, including people who voice homophobic views, accusations which continue to be levelled at it. Khan rejects outright any suggestion that the mosque harbours or condones extremists. While acknowledging there have been instances in the past where people with unpalatable views have preached at the mosque he insists that these were usually at events organised by outside groups and that the mosque has tightened up its vetting procedures. But he said it was impossible to check on every previous statement of every possible preacher, especially when they are sometimes in Arabic (which he does not speak).

 

Mosques tighten their security as attacks follow the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby

Kashif Ahmed pointed to a hole in the middle of the mosque’s carpet where the smoke grenade landed. On 22 May this year Geoffrey Ryan kicked open the front door of the Al Falah mosque in Braintree, Essex, tossed the incendiary device inside, and brandishing two kitchen knives threatened to kill worshippers. Five hours earlier, Drummer Lee Rigby had been murdered on the streets of Woolwich, south-east London. Muslim convert Michael Adebolajo has been charged with the killing.

 

The mood among many Muslim communities in the aftermath of Woolwich remains fearful. In the months since then, Braintree’s only mosque has been strikingly modified. The front door is now protected by a security code, CCTV cameras monitor the entrance and police patrols frequently pass by.

 

Ahmed, who lives in nearby Chelmsford, believes community relations in Braintree have broadly improved since the attacks, citing gestures of support from local church groups, businesses and schools. During the recent month of Ramadan, police guarded the mosque every night for two or three hours to ensure that late-night drinkers could not cause trouble. “When people are drunk, everybody has a problem. Anybody who looks different – for example, if they have a funny haircut – can get targeted,” said Ahmed.

 

But the voice of dissent is again soon evident. Sheila, who has lived in south Harlow for 40 years, said some residents were worried about a perceived increase in the number of Muslims. “It’s getting bad, people have had enough,” she said. “I remember we managed to stop it [the Islamic centre] turning into a mosque. They were going to bring the dead bodies in, despite it being next door to the school. People don’t want that.”

 

Yet the truth is that the town’s Muslim population of 2,000 out of a total of 82,000 keeps a low profile. The Islamic centre is discreetly located on the town’s southern periphery, barely visible from the road. “I’ve been driving past it for three years and never even noticed it.

 

Yet the aftermath of the Woolwich attacks has drawn attention to the fact that the far right, particularly the EDL, is behind many of the attacks, with the group recently linked to a third of cases of Islamophobic abuse online.

 

Islam is way more English than the English Defence League

The English Defence League’s definition of what constitutes the English working class is a classic case of projection. To take the “working class” tag, never mind that Tommy Robinson (the leader of the EDL) owns his own business and so is technically petit-bourgeois – making him officially entitled to buy a cream and gold bathroom. The more contentious bit of the EDL’s identity is its claim to represent “the English”. The problem with this claim is that a hundred people will come up with a hundred ways of defining Englishness and each with disagree violently with each other. To quote George Bernard Shaw: “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”

 

So while football hooliganism (out of which the EDL has spawned), covering your car in St George’s flags (English flag as opposed to the Union Jack), wearing balaclavas (a prevalent item of clothing at EDL marches and rallies) and spending time in prison (Tommy Robinson the leader of the EDL has been convicted of assault) is one definition of Englishness, others do exist. Today our meetings with foreign cultures are awkward precisely because we lack a solid sense of who we are. A lot of the fear shown towards Islam comes from the death of the Christian soul – we see a people who actually believe in something and we are intimidated.

 

By contrast, most Muslims cling on to values that were once definitively English and that we could do with rediscovering. Islam instructs its followers to cherish their families, to venerate women, to treat strangers kindly, to obey the law of any country they are in (yes, yes, it really does), and to give generously. One recent poll found that British Muslims donate more money to charity than any other religious group. Much is written about the need for Muslims to integrate better into English society, although states that 99 per cent of them probably already do.

 

This is a blog post written for the Daily Telegraph by Dr Tim Stanley. He is a historian of the United States. His biography of Pat Buchanan is available now. His personal website is www.timothystanley.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter @timothy_stanley.

 

English Defence League leaders arrested on way to Woolwich

Two English Defence League leaders arrested as they attempted to visit the spot where Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered have been released on bail. EDL leader Tommy Robinson and his co-leader Kevin Carroll were detained by police on suspicion of obstructing officers outside Aldgate East station in east London as they attempted to stage what they claimed was a charity walk to Woolwich Barracks via the East London Mosque. Scotland Yard said it had imposed conditions due to fears that both the march and gathering would “result in serious public disorder and serious disruption to the life of the community” and a breach of the conditions would be a criminal offence. The police said attempts had been made to discuss the march and gathering with the EDL and offered it two alternative routes that avoided Tower Hamlets, home to the East London Mosque.