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

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.

 

British tolerance is never a given. Post-Woolwich, it must be defended

If you’re living in a Muslim country you’ll notice Ramadan in many wonderful ways – but a not so wonderful way is the one where you live next to a mosque with really bad speakers over which it broadcasts those early, longer, seemingly louder calls to prayer during the holy month. In stark contrast, it is hard to imagine Channel 4’s planned 3am broadcasts of the Ramadan prayers will be observed by anybody not already observing this special holiday. And yet this move has been cast as a deliberate provocation by the channel itself – to bust our stereotypes of Islam – and by bigoted newspapers spinning the call to prayer as a call to impose sharia law in Britain.

 

And yet, rather than recognise how alarming and frightening this vicious spike in anti-Muslim attacks truly is, sections of the British media have been engaged in trying to underplay it. Underpinning all this was a confident appraisal of British culture, such as that suggested by Tony Parsons in the Mirror, who noted that we are “a civilised, polite, tolerant people” – as though that could magically stop us also being capable of bigotry or hatred. Forty percent of anti-Muslim attacks recorded by Tell Mama UK last year were linked to English Defence League sympathisers. But these attacks can only take place and then be so casually diminished in a culture that sees some degree of hatred or suspicion of Muslims as acceptable and understandable.

 

Fortunately, though, tolerance really is a component of British life: that is what has prompted the flood of messages of support for British mosques, the solidarity across communities, and the anti-fascist protests that are organised to face down racist mobilisations by the EDL. Tolerance is something that makes people proud of Britain, but it is never a given; it always has to be defended – more than ever in the testing times we face today, and even when the attacks seem as superficially schoolyard as the one about the televised call to prayer.

 

Sermons preached in mosques will do nothing to prevent child sex abuse in south Asian communities

Last Friday, Muslim leaders across the country united in openly condemning instances of child grooming and trafficking gangs within their communities. Organised by the non-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and supported by the Muslim Council of Britain, a sermon delivered in around 500 mosques highlighted both the “moral depravity” and Quranic condemnation of such acts, which have no place in the Islamic faith.

There is no doubt that the intentions of the lectures were amicable, particularly in light of recent cases involving grooming gangs in Oxford and Rochdale. Yet in attempting to disassociate the wider Muslim community from such deplorable acts, they may have instead found themselves contributing to the toxic narrative often espoused by anti-Islamic groups such as the English Defence League, who argue that paedophilia and abuse are inherent within the religion. Further, while the gesture may have been widely praised by the media, it will have achieved little in getting to the roots of the problem, or preventing further such cases.

 

That’s largely because the relationship between Islam and grooming gangs is spurious at best. Some may argue that while these men were far from pious, Muslim leaders have a civic duty to address these issues. Where mosques are integral parts of local communities, they should play an active part in addressing issues that affect wider society. But we shouldn’t simply place pressure onto mosques and imams, for in reality they can do little but continue stating the obvious: that such acts are abhorrent and impermissible. In fact, a more effective way of tackling the epidemic of grooming gangs lies in encouraging the quieter voices within Asian communities – residents, community groups and local business owners – to speak out. Victims of abuse often find themselves at the mercy of the perpetrators, who are empowered simply because those around them are more than willing to keep quiet and look the other way. In fact, their silence highlights a far more complex cultural issue – notably the cult of shame and honour that forms the basis of social organisation within many South Asian communities. Indeed, it is not just the young victims of abuse that these grooming gangs were exploiting, but also the sensitivities of their cultural heritage.

 

The truth is that beyond the names of the perpetrators, Islam has little to do with these crimes. The real problem instead lies with cultural taboos and a hesitance by traditional communities to engage with such sensitive topics, which is readily exploited by criminal groups. The result of this continued silence is more victims of abuse and further hostility toward the majority of law abiding Muslims.

 

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.

Half of Britain’s mosques have been attacked since 9/11

Around half of mosques and Muslim centres in Britain have been subjected to Islamophobic attacks since 9/11, academics have warned as the far-right English Defence League prepares to march to the south-London scene of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder. The figures are highlighted in a report which also found that the number of anti-Islamic attacks increased by as much as tenfold in the days following the Woolwich attack.

 

Despite the warning signs, a senior Government adviser told The Independent that there remains a “lack of political will” to take on the rise of Islamophobic attacks in Britain. The adviser, who did not want to be named, said that attempts to “tackle this issue – even before Woolwich – struggled to attract buy-in,” with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, identified as the primary source of frustration.

 

Professor Nigel Copsey, of Teesside University, the author of the new report which showed that between 40 and 60 per cent of mosques and other Islamic centres (around 700) had been targeted since 9/11 – said: “There has undoubtedly been a spike in anti-Muslim incidents since the Woolwich murder. An obvious concern now is whether the number of hate crime incidents return to ‘normal’ levels or whether Woolwich has been a game-changer in terms of increasing the underlying incidence of anti-Muslim hate over the longer term.”

 

But Dr Matthew Goodwin, associate fellow at Chatham House and an expert on extremist groups said that “the broader picture is more positive than we think. Young people are more at ease accepting Muslims in society.” A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “There is no place for anti-Muslim hatred or any kind of hatred in Britain, and we are committed to tackling this unacceptable scourge.”

‘I am not a Nazi’, says EDL leader Tommy Robinson

 

Tommy Robinson, who is the organisation’s co-founder, was grilled about the EDL in a highly charged interview on the BBC’s Sunday Politics. Confronted by images of EDL supporters giving what appeared to be Nazi salutes, Mr Robinson said it was a “manipulated photo”. Asked by presenter Andrew Neil if it was a “fascist Nazi salute by any definition” he said: “I am not a Nazi, I hate Nazis, I hate fascism.” Mr Robinson said that the EDL had now advised that “whenever people hold their hands up like that we have told them to give the V” to avoid any misunderstanding. He said: “Nazism and Islamism are on the opposite sides of the same coin – we oppose both. Nazism has been defeated and Islamism is spreading across the country.” Mr Robinson said it was “political correctness gone mad” that the Help the Heroes charity had turned down a donation from the EDL in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. He added that the EDL had support among serving British soldiers: “Ordinary British squaddies support us – I know they do.” Last week serving soldiers were warned that taking part in any EDL activities could result in their dismissal. Asked if Britons were expected to believe that the EDL was “no more menacing than the Girl Guides”, he said: “Has anyone from the English Defence League blown anything up, has anyone from the English Defence League killed anyone, has anyone planned to bomb anything? “What you have to understand is there is a massive undercurrent of anger across this country – I have got my finger on the pulse, people are angry, you need to harness and channel that anger which is what we are trying to do.”

EDL leader Tommy Robinson ‘utterly condemns’ attacks on Muslims

The leader of the English Defence League has said he “utterly condemns” attacks on Muslims, and called for the internment of Islamic extremists. Tommy Robinson’s comments, made on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, come the day after six extremists were jailed for a total of more than 100 years for plotting a gun and bomb attack on an EDL rally in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. He also denied claims his group had firebombed an Islamic community centre in north London on which “EDL” was spray-painted. He called for the internment of Islamist extremists and the outlawing of all aspects of Sharia law. “I’d stop the building of mosques in this country until Islam reforms in such a way and works in this country with Western democracy and freedom,” he added.

Islamist gang of six jailed for at least 18 years each for plotting bomb attack on EDL rally

Six Islamist extremists have been jailed for a total of more than 100 years for plotting a gun and bomb attack on an English Defence League rally that could have sparked spiralling communal violence in Britain. The Islamist extremists planned a bomb and gun attack on an English Defence League rally in the knowledge that it would spark a tit-for-tat spiral of violence, a court heard. The plot to bomb the rally in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in June last year failed only because of a mixture of incompetence and chance after the plotters turned up late. One of their cars was then impounded following a traffic check on their way home. The bungling group had planned the attack for eight weeks, including research to find the telephone number of the EDL’s leader Tommy Robinson and tracking the location of EDL rallies. The Old Bailey heard that it had planned “terrible vengeance” on the EDL for what it saw as blasphemous words and actions against Islam.

 

The six men being sentenced, all from the West Midlands, admitted planning the attack in April 2012. Jewel Uddin, 27, Omar Mohammed Khan, 31, and Zohaib Ahmed, 22, were jailed for 19-and-a-half years. Mohammed Hasseen, 24, Anzal Hussain, 25, and Mohammed Saud, 23, were given jail terms of 18 years and nine months.

 

All of the men except Hasseen travelled to Dewsbury on the day of the rally but arrived at around 4pm, while the event had finished earlier than expected, at 2pm. They were armed with two shotguns, swords, knives, a nail bomb containing 458 pieces of shrapnel, and a partially assembled pipe bomb.

 

As they drove home to Birmingham, one of their cars was pulled over by police because a plotter failed to fill out an online application form properly and the car showed up as having no insurance. The weapons were found several days later along with declarations of war addressed to the “kafir (non-believer) female and self-proclaimed Queen Elizabeth” and David Cameron. The plotters were rounded up by West Midlands officers after a huge anti-terrorism operation.

 

Bobbie Cheema QC, prosecuting, told the court: “They intended to bring about a violent confrontation with the EDL during which they intended to use weapons to cause serious injuries and they anticipated, each one of them, that some victims may have died.”

Mr Robinson briefly watched proceedings from the public gallery of the Old Bailey and called out “God Save the Queen” when the sentences were announced. Outside, police stepped up security as dozens of EDL members gathered at a pub close to the court. One man was held on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly.

Six would-be terrorists were responding to English Defence League (EDL) provocation, court hears

Dewsbury plotThe 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.