The six would-be terrorists who planned to attack a far-right demonstration using knives, machetes and a homemade bomb were reacting to violence and intimidation aimed at provoking the UK’s Muslim population, a court has heard. In mitigation, Joel Bennathan QC, defending, said the six men, who have already pleaded guilty to plotting an attack on an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration in Dewsbury last year, were amateurish and “hopelessly incompetent”. He told the Old Bailey on Friday that although the “great bulk” of the Muslim community had the sense to ignore the activities of the EDL, this group – who were “not particularly intellectual” – reacted to a series of EDL demonstrations targeting Muslim areas that were provocative, insulting and intimidating.
Omar Khan, 28, Mohammed Saud, 23, Jewel Uddin, 27, Zohaib Ahmed, 22, and Anzal Hussain, 25, pleaded guilty at Woolwich crown court to engaging in preparation for acts of terrorism. A sixth man, Mohammed Hasseen, 23, pleaded guilty to the same offence and possessing a document likely to be of use to a person preparing or committing an act of terrorism.
The court heard the mission was only abandoned when the group turned up after the EDL demonstration had finished.
Earlier the court heard that the planned attack would have led “to a tit-for-tat spiral of violence and terror” that would have reverberated around the country if it had gone ahead.
Mr Bennathan said the EDL fitted in with a long tradition of right wing groups antagonising Muslims and that the incident was not so much a terrorist incident but a domestic dispute. Despite the use of Jihadist language in their note, he said: “This was undoubtedly a domestic bit of planned violence by young British men reacting to the calculated insults of other young British men.” He said the men had no intention to kill anyone and that the whole group now accept that everyone has a right to air their views whether insulting or not. He said: “There is an acceptance now that people living in a liberal democracy in the UK have a right to express views even if other people disagree with those views or find them upsetting.”
The court was told yesterday how the group wanted to start a race war with an army of young Muslim martyrs. The plot was only narrowly averted by the group’s own incompetence and sheer luck.
Police are investigating a fire started by intruders at an Islamic boarding school on the south-east outskirts of London as suspicious, amid continuing fears of reprisals after the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. Two boys were treated for smoke inhalation after fire broke out at the Darul Uloom Islamic School in Chislehurst, Kent, on Saturday night.
In a statement the police urged the public to remain calm and not to speculate on the cause of the fire. It said extra police had been deployed to other “potentially vulnerable” buildings in the area. It but did not elaborate.
Darul Uloom Islamic School is about six miles (10 kilometres) from Woolwich, where Rigby was killed last month. It is a £3,000-a-year, boys’ boarding school, was established in 1988. Students wear salwar kameez and skull caps, typical of Pakistan, and study a mixture of the national curriculum and Islamic studies. The school was established in 1988. Its website says it aims to “prepare Muslim students to be good Muslims and responsible citizens; to embed in the student a sense of discipline; to enable them to grow up to become upright, respectable and worthy citizens of their respective countries.”
Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police chief commissioner, said: “These are difficult times for London’s communities. The Met is now investigating suspicious fires at two locations within the Islamic community which have happened in the past few days. Fortunately no one has been hurt, but we know that fires can often prove fatal.
Four teenagers have been arrested over the fire which saw 182 staff and pupils evacuated and two treated for smoke inhalation. The four – two aged 17, and two aged 18 – were arrested on suspicion of arson late last night, the Metropolitan Police confirmed. They are currently in custody at a south London police station.
The incident is the second suspected arson attack perpetrated against a Muslim institution in the capital after graffiti reading “EDL” was found at a burned out Islamic Community Centre in Muswell Hill. Met Police investigators are still trying to establish the causes and circumstances of the school fire. They appealed for calm and asked people not to speculate as to the cause of the fire.
Radio or television news programmes soon turn to Woolwich, Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale, and Muslims. So-called experts are quick to pass comments, thankfully most speak a great deal of sense, and members of the public call in with their opinions.
The English Defence League (EDL) wasted no time. They took to the streets and the internet within hours, stirring up support and spreading false rumours, causing further terror in a society which had been terrorised enough. Yes we can say they are ignorant and we should not pay any attention. But wasn’t it ignorance and lack of understanding that led to the horror on the streets of Woolwich on Wednesday afternoon?
As the days progressed and the press attention showed no signs of subsiding, fear turned to anger. Not only did the press continue to scaremonger, but members of the Muslim community began acting irrationally out of fear. A checklist posted online “for Muslims” on how to stay safe, with advice including don’t walk down a dark alley alone, don’t let the elderly, the young, or women walk the streets alone. We are quick to point the finger over issues of “us” and “them”, but we are just as guilty of it. Such behaviour can only lead to more divisions within society, when this is the time we must all stand together.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown put it perfectly when she wrote, “We hate Islamicist brutes more than any outsiders ever could. They ruin our futures and hopes.” And she is right. If there is anyone who will benefit the most from the expulsion of these extremists, it is the law-abiding, everyday Muslim. But until that day comes, we must not separate ourselves. Yes we are Muslims, but we are also British, and it is up to us to decide which way this goes.
Those wondering how to respond to English Defence League marches this weekend can look to the example of tea and non-confrontation we set at York mosque
When we first heard about the English Defence League protest that was to take place outside our local mosque in York last Sunday, my colleagues and I sat down and thought about how we should behave. We are non-violent people and the EDL say they are too, so any notion of aggressive confrontation was ruled out immediately. We came up with a different approach. Now I hear that 50 more EDL protests are being planned across the country this weekend and I thought it timely to consider why the York response worked.
It was up to us to provide an atmosphere that was representative of our culture. When I say “our culture”, I mean all of us, including the EDL and the members of the mosque. We all think of sitting down with a cup of tea as something quintessentially English, so we thought that offering a cup of good old-fashioned Yorkshire tea and hospitality would be a start.
When we listened, we realised the EDL may have thought that we supported extremist behaviour and the Taliban. We pointed out that we condemned both in the strongest terms. Assumptions are dangerous, untested assumptions can be lethal. They were surprised, and they understood. The day ended in a game of football.
This weekend, we should try to put assumptions aside. Elements of the far-right are planning demonstrations across the country, including Birmingham, Luton and Leeds, in what has been described as a “day of hate”. But we should be careful about using such labels and consider instead sitting down with these groups to try to understand what has driven them to organise such events.
Relatives say murdered soldier had friends of different cultures and would not want his death used as excuse for violence. The family of Lee Rigby have urged people to “show their respect”, saying the murdered soldier would not want anyone to exploit the event to cause division.
Their call came as far-right groups prepared for what could be their biggest mass mobilisation in years, including dozens of planned protests by the English Defence League (EDL) and a British National party (BNP) rally on Saturday in central London.
There has been a sharp increase in reports of Islamophobic incidents since Rigby’s death; more than 200 were reported to a hotline in the week following his murder in Woolwich, south-east London, on 22 May.
Anti-racist campaigners say there could be as many as 60 EDL protests around England on Saturday, making it the largest far-right mobilisation in 30 years. Some of the biggest turnouts are expected in Birmingham, Luton and Leeds, and police forces have held emergency meetings to work out how to maintain order.
Groups opposed to the far right, such as Hope not Hate, and faith organisations have been organising their own activities. On Friday, representatives of Greenwich Islamic Centre, which has no links to the alleged attackers but became a focus because of its proximity to the murder site, hosted an event in which Muslim community leaders joined representatives from the Jewish, Anglican, Catholic and Sikh faiths to lay a wreath spelling “Peace” at Woolwich barracks, where Rigby was based.
It was preceded by a “tea and biscuits” event at the Greenwich centre, modelled on the much-praised impromptu efforts of a York mosque to charm a gathering of EDL would-be protesters earlier this week.
29 May 2013
Anonymous, the shadowy global network of computer hackers, has carried out a cyber attack on the English Defence League (EDL) and released member information including names, addresses, and phone numbers. A YouTube video created by the group claimed that the attack was in response to a number of far-right groups, including the EDL, seizing on the Woolwich attack to further their campaigns of “hate, bigotry, and misinformation.”
The video, posted by member IWill Object and entitled “A Message from Anonymous UK to the English Defence League,” warns of future cyber attacks and threatens the EDL with “the systematic and comprehensive decimation of your cult.”
The personal details of EDL members and donors were published online on Tuesday. At least one EDL member has since received threats via calls by “anti-fascists and Muslims” to his mobile phone number since the information was released. The EDL has been particularly vocal in its condemnation of the Woolwich attack, condemnation which it has directed principally towards the Muslim community. The group organized a number of rallies last week, including a high-profile march to Downing Street on Monday which attracted more than 1,000 protestors.
27 May 2013
A potentially volatile situation was defused early last week when York Muslims met English Defence League (EDL) protestors with tea and custard creams, leading to a constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual rejection of violent extremism. The Muslim Council of Britain, one of the country’s largest Muslim groups, has since come out in support of the strategy.
Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said of the dialogue: “Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong.”
Though the EDL protest outside the York mosque was comparatively small, only about 6 people, the non-violent resolution of the situation, constituted on the basis of shared cultural preferences (tea and sweets) and a common rejection of extremism, is being heralded as a model for future efforts to engage in dialogue with local communities by the Muslim Council of Britain. A statement on the group’s website encourages Muslims to seek common ground with fellow Britons and to open mosque doors to the public in a spirit of openness.
The events in York came as the EDL launched a number of protests across the country in response to the Woolwich attack on Drummer Lee Rigby, which the EDL has blamed on Islam. Many Muslim leaders have condemned the actions of the Woolwich attackers as un-Islamic, including Ismail Miah, leader of the York mosque, who said: “What they’ve done in London is for their own reasons but there’s no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view.”
7 May 2013
Tony Nixon, a UK Independence Party (UKip) member from Guisborough who canvassed nearly 800 homes for the party in the most recent election, has been suspended by the UKip for allegedly posting anti-Muslim material on his Facebook page. Mr. Nixon’s page contained a number of anti-Muslim jokes advocating the destruction of Mosques and calling Islam “The Crime Against Humanity.” Mr. Nixon also “liked” right wing groups such as the English Defence League (EDL), saying that the EDL and the UKip are on the same side “in the fight against traitors to Britain.”
The UKip did surprisingly well in the recent County Council elections held earlier this month, winning 153 council seats and finishing ahead of the Conservative party candidates in 500 council seats across the country. The party calls for an overhaul of the immigration system in the United Kingdom, advocating a five year freeze on permanent settlement and withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Convention on Refugees. In response to the allegations against Mr. Nixon, the party said, “We do not condone racist or any other inappropriate comments and regard them as totally abhorrent and if anyone else is discovered acting in such an appalling way they will be thrown out of the party.”
North Yorkshire police are aware of Mr. Nixon’s alleged comments and are currently investigating the matter.
27 March 2013
A report released this month by Chatham House entitled, “The Roots of Extremism: The English Defence League and the Counter-Jihad Challenge” examines the rise of counter-jihad groups as a particularly confrontational and unpredictable variation of right-wing extremism in Europe and North America.
The author of the paper, Dr. Matthew Goodwin, an Associate Fellow at Chatham House and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nottingham, uses the English Defence League (EDL) as a case study to analyze the potential reasons for the emergence of counter-jihad organizations and the nature of those who support them. Using new data collected by a 2012 YouGov survey, Dr. Goodwin finds that many commonly held assumptions about right-wing extremists, specifically those pertaining to education level, socio-economic status, and age, do not accurately characterize the supporters of counter-jihad groups and that these assumptions do not serve as an adequate basis for policies meant to combat the unique threat posed by these organizations.
9 March 2013
Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), an official hotline established in February of 2012 with the intent to help quantify instances of anti-Muslim violence, found that of the more than 630 incidents reported in the hotline’s first 12 months of operation, the majority of victims were women.
58% of the incidents reported to Tell MAMA targeted Muslim women. Most of these incidents were characterized by the hotline as “abusive behaviour,” with 74% of these acts perpetrated online. The majority of public physical assaults were characterized as “random” in nature and directed primarily toward women wearing Islamic clothing.
The majority (54%) of the perpetrators were linked to far-right groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP). Of the instances reported, three-quarters of the perpetrators were men with an average age between 21 and 34.
These results emerge in the wake of a Chatham House report which found wide support for the claim that Islam and Muslim communities pose a threat to the nation.
The first results recorded by Tell Mama shocked Fiyaz Mughal, the hotline’s coordinator, who issued a call to public officials to combat what he referred to as a “shameful wave of fear and prejudice.” Currently, only the City of London police and the Metropolitan police record anti-Muslim crimes separately, a practice Mr. Mughal would like to see expanded. 2,000 hate crimes directed towards various religious communities in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales were reported to police officers in 2011, though officials are unable to determine exactly how many of those were perpetrated against Muslims.