Monday, 14 September 2009

Islamic Extremism: Tackling the English Defence League.


"We're returning to the 30s!" scream the headlines. Only a week after a second English Defence League demonstration turns ugly in Birmingham, another demonstration at a mosque in Harrow also descends into chaos with anti-fascists and Muslims clashing with riot police. This time, the Harrow protesters are from Stop the Islamification of Europe, a group opposed to Islamic extremism. These two groups also share a common enemy out on the streets - Unite Against Fascism - who are doing more to help these groups than weaken them.

First of all, comparisons to Mosley's blackshirts are entirely unfair. From what I know, Mosley's motley crew were far more organised and larger in numbers than the EDL. Secondly, actually calling them far-right or fascist doesn't help, because it's hard to see where politics or economics comes into their protests. Racists would be a more suitable term, even if the group themselves reject it:
"We are a non racist and non discriminatory protest group who believe in an integrated and peaceful Britain with one law and one society, respected by all of its members."

The evidence provided by video journalist Jason Parkinson (above) suggests otherwise. If they really were non-racist, non-discriminatory they would be quick to disassociate themselves with those singing "I hate Pakis more than you" and would remove such placards as those saying no to a London mega-mosque.

[Edit] The EDL make the point that they're not racist and other people have pointed out that people of many races are actually members. Fair point - I fell into the trap of equating "Islamophobic" with "racist".

Unsurprisingly, the behaviour of UAF is being seized upon by the EDL to their advantage. Not only do UAF sound like an Ulster paramilitary group, they act like one too. Seriously, pack it in, for fuck's sake. I don't like to resort to derogatory terms but I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with an organisation I can only describe as a bunch of fools. I gather from newspaper reports that the total number of protesters at Harrow mosque were 16. So, a few lone wingnuts protest outside a mosque, as is their right I hasten to add, and UAF whip up a frenzy on the same streets acting like the kind of extremists the EDL harp on about.

In no way at all are UAF helping the anti-racist anti-Islamophobic cause. Beating them on the streets does not equate to beating them intellectually. In fact, I'm beginning to come around to the idea that the best thing anti-racism anti-Islamophobic groups can do with such protests is simply ignore them (or at the very least hold a counter protest on a completely different day), but that's not to say ignore the problem. Of course, we should debate, argue and pull away their veil of ignorance wherever possible, but as John Denham MP points out:
"If you look at the types of demonstrations they have organised, the language used and the targets chosen, it looks pretty clear that it's a tactic designed to provoke, to get a response and create violence."


And it works to perfection. That isn't to admonish UAF or their comrades-in-arms of any guilt. Clearly, there are some people not just in UAF but the black and Asian communities who are up for a fight with people they consider scum or a threat, but if the large numbers can stay away then this minority will come across as just that.

So how do we confront the problem, because confront it we must. Clearly, we should ask "why?" people feel compelled to join the English Defence League. No doubt this has much to do with failures, whether perceived or real, of community cohesion as well as a sense of neglect among white working class groups, the kind that has been pounced on by the BNP. But we must also ask ourselves if there is a problem with Islamic extremism, the answer to which is obviously "Yes". But how much of a problem is it? Does it threaten Britain's existence? Hardly. It's a pudding that for too long has been over egged by rabid red tops and myopic mid-market rags and has left many people living in a climate of fear.

If we are to tackle this extremism, then we have to look at its roots, in which case the EDL would be better off directing their discontent at the UK government who have been complicit in heaping misery across the Muslim world. Recent research shows that many suicide bombers are inspired more by politics than by their religion, something that many people in power would rather you ignore. To suggest that all terrorists are driven by a vicious desire to spill blood, or that they hate our freedom, is irrational. Whilst no doubt a few are so minded, to think that decades of neoliberal, neocolonial economics supported by violent and bloody war is going to be suffered quietly is a shortsighted view. If you were being attacked wouldn't you want to fight back? Many people may simply defend themselves on the spot, like the insurgency in Iraq. Some more violent-minded people would seek like-for-like retribution and take the fight to the enemy, which for many people will include the seemingly apathetic population of an enemy nation. In no way am I condoning terrorism, but I can empathise with those who commit such atrocities.

In tackling these EDL thugs we can't just address the problems blighting the white working class because that doesn't take away from the fact that Islamic extremists do exist. Unfortunately some people do harbour racist feelings [Edit]Here I wasn't just referring to the EDL, but the BNP too that can't be easily addressed through socio-economic means. Some people are Islamophobic and do fear extremists, a problem greatly exacerbated by this country's foreign and economic policy (and the media), but will the government ever admit to that?

More upsetting is the fact that some people are just steadfast bigots. In the same way that I could never be a ball-breaking capitalist sweatshop owner, some people could never share space with non-whites. How can we tackle this? Well, I don't think we can. All we can do is try to stop the poison spreading by building a more equal and more tolerant society for future generations.

[Edit] I've written before about UAF's tactics and in July I criticised an analysis document from Unite Against Fascism, saying that their tactics of keeping the BNP out of the media went against free speech. Somebody from UAF commented on the earlier part of the post regarding voting and said they would return to answer my criticism of their media policy. Despite chasing them up, they never did. Maybe they'd like to take the opportunity to do so now?

21 comments:

  1. Really good post, and interesting New Statesman link, I hadn't seen it so thanks for that.

    Not protesting against groups as ridiculous and misguided as the EDL would just seem like ignoring the issue, though, even if it isn't ignoring it and there are, as you say, counter-protests and/or peaceful protests at a different place or time. Not condoning the actions of the UAF, but something's got be done at the time if the EDL/whoever are basing their fight on misguided, tabloid-inspired facts, ignorance and assumptions.

    Or something. As I said, really good post.

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  2. Thank you :)

    Yeah I see what you mean, and that's why I don't want to categorically say "ignore the protests" yet. Maybe I'm being pessimistic but I think if there is a counter protest it will just lead to violence. But then if there was one and UAF were absent, maybe it wouldn't turn nasty... It's a tricky one!

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  3. Your post is just unmitigated nonesense. The EDL are not racist because it's impossible to be racist against an ideology that encompasses many races. The EDL are peaceful. On all occasions it's been Muslim racists and bigots and the UAF who have instigated violence.

    As an example. The Harrow protest was called off. That didn't stop 1,000 armed (yes armed) violent, racist thugs from turning up and attacking the police and any innocent white people who happened to be in the area at teh time (and by that I mean people going about their business and not involved in the protests).

    Your complete lack of objectivity marks you down as one with an agenda. I am guessing you side with the Muslims and obviously hate homosexuals and would have them killed just as Muslims would. You obviously care very little for female equality because the Muslims certainly don't. You certainly don't like free speech because it goes against your ideological upbringing that tells you that any criticism true or otherwise must be crushed without mercy just like the Muslims. Oh yes there was another agency who used to do those very same things....let me see ah yes the Nazi party. And more recently the Unite-Against-Fascism group which should be labelled unite-against-freedom. Just a black-shirt rent-a-mob paid for by the government and commanded by the Muslim high command!

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  4. Unite Against Fascism are not representative of the anti-fascist movement as a whole. Although they should be commended for actually organising and trying to do something about fascism, I'm not sure they are always effective. There are also concerns about how close UAF are to the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). The SWP has been known to use groups like UAF and the Stop the War Coalition as a recruiting ground, compromising any independence they might otherwise have.

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  5. Thank you Anonymous for your reply, even if it is apparent that you were selective in the information you paid attention to.

    First of all, I put my hands up - I made the common error of equating "Islamophobic" with "racist" and shall change the text as necessary. This you cannot doubt though, as EDL have been seen in Birmingham brandishing placards saying no to a mega-mosque in London. If you really are non-discriminatory and only against Islamic extremism, then why discriminate against good Muslims by campaigning against a new mosque?

    Secondly, you make it sound like the Harrow protest was called off before the UAF et al turned up. This isn't true, it was called off after the counter-protest arrived. I don't dispute that these counter protesters were violent and attacked the police, as you can see if you bother to read the above words.

    Actually, I'll save you the hassle:

    "Not only do UAF sound like an Ulster paramilitary group, they act like one too... So, a few lone wingnuts protest outside a mosque, as is their right I hasten to add, and UAF whip up a frenzy on the same streets acting like the kind of extremists the EDL harp on about."

    In no way am I defending UAF. In fact, I've attacked such tactics before, both here and here.

    Thirdly, you proclaim:

    "Your complete lack of objectivity marks you down as one with an agenda."

    I absolutely do have an agenda, that of working for a world of peace, justice and equality, as you can see on the right hand side of my blog. Furthermore, I think I did approach this topic objectively, heavily criticisng the anti-fascists and asking if there is a problem with Islamic extremism (yes) before asking how we must address it.

    You then acuse me of being homophobic and against female equality, because that's what Muslims believe in. I can assure you I am neither homophobic nor chauvinistic, and neither are many Muslims. This displays a discriminatory view on your behalf of Islam being wholly intolerant.

    Furthermore, you say:

    "You certainly don't like free speech because it goes against your ideological upbringing that tells you that any criticism true or otherwise must be crushed without mercy just like the Muslims."

    Strange that you bring up my upbringing, because this isn't something I've shared online. But there's no time like the present so: My upbringing wasn't ideological at all. My parents aren't particularly political, the only political thing I remember my Dad telling me was "don't vote Conservative, they never do anything for the working class." My school wasn't political, nor was my university. I arrived at my politics and morals of my own accord and one of these morals includes the absolute right to free speech, as I make clear in this blog post and others such as this one. And sorry to be a pedant, but do you mean the Muslims must be crushed without mercy, or that Muslims dislike free speech?

    "Just a black-shirt rent-a-mob paid for by the government and commanded by the Muslim high command!"

    I've seen this claim all over the EDL website, that UAF are funded by the taxpayer, but can't find any evidence to prove it. If you could help me it would be much appreciated.

    Also, if by "the Muslim high command" you mean people such as the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, well, I'm yet to see him leading the UAF charge on the streets of Britain.

    Again, thank you for your comment and I look forward to hearing from you again.

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  6. The EDL isn't racist pal. You will see the problem in 10 years time, if we do not act now. Goodluck living in a Muslim country mate.

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  7. If you read my above comment, you will see I've taken back the comment about the EDL being racist. I did, however, say that the EDL are Islamophobic.

    Now, I don't want to make assumptions, but judging by your comment, I would guess you are a member or supporter of the EDL? If so, I thought you were against Islamic extremists, not Islam per se, as is apparent from your comment?

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  8. you really havent got a clue have you mate? the mega mosque is funded by an extreme jihadi group from saudi, do some research before you spout your left wing crap

    Marshy Welsh Defence League

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  9. you will all sit on the fence and say nothing
    and when its time for jihad or your country
    to be overpowered by islamics that want to fly the flag of pakistan etc over downing street then you will find out its way too late.
    people like the edl are speaking out loud just like the bnp do.
    for your sakes so be proud of your country
    and make your stance
    stop pussyfooting with muslims
    wherever they go there has been problems.

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  10. @marshy

    The funding for the mega-mosque is unclear and while the sect hoping to build it is undoubtedly a cause for concern because of its links to extremist elements, this doesn't explain why EDL protesters brandish other signs saying "No more mosques" and "No 2 Islam". If you really are just against extremism, then why are these people, as well as those who sing "I hate Pakis" and other such racist and xenophobic nonsense, not reprimanded at the protests? It's hard to believe the EDL are not a front for Islamophobes when such behaviour seems permitted.

    @Anonymous

    We are far from being turned into a Pakistani enclave, don't believe everything you read in the press.

    Also, nice of you to have the balls to post behind a cloak of anonymity. Are you a member of the EDL?

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  11. Giving to charity is a central tenet of Islam.

    Is it not conceivable that rich Saudis with plenty of oil money would want to fund the building of Mosques for diaspora communities overseas? Why do there have to be ulterior motives?

    Even if the group has extremist links (and I have no reason to believe that they do) that does not mean that those who use the Mosque will become radicalised. Islam is a very decentralised religion. The people who use the mosque will have a bigger say over how it is run, and what form of Islam it preaches than the people who fund its construction.

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  12. what must muslims do to convince you of their evil wicked ways.
    a few more london tube bombings,another twin towers,another balhi,another glasgow airport,another india ? etc etc
    yet you knock people that oppose such evil.
    they all religiously worship the same so called god.
    a god that tells the muslims to be brutal against us all
    read the koran or korap !!!!

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  13. Idiot, there maybe some racists in the EDL but that don't mean all of them are, there is also some lefties, so by your reckoning does that make them lefties? Its not about right or left its about people being sick to death of Muslims extremists trying to destroy our Nation.

    MIKE266

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  14. Lets put it this way Jamie, are you saying Muslims extremists isn't a threat to our and other peoples countries?

    MIKE266

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  15. @Mike266

    If you care to read the article you will note that I said:

    "Calling them far-right or fascist doesn't help, because it's hard to see where politics or economics comes into their protests."

    Islamophobia is something that transcends political leanings and a lot of what I've seen would suggest it exists beyond simply a minority in the EDL.

    Also, I said:

    "we must also ask ourselves if there is a problem with Islamic extremism, the answer to which is obviously "Yes"."

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  16. what the hell is racist about not wanting exremist in our country.
    i dont understand.

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  17. Please - read the post before you comment.

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  18. Jamie,

    Thanks for trying to address this subject with a fairly even hand and being decent enough to correct your text.

    There are however a few points you make that I take serious issue with:

    "Some more violent-minded people would seek like-for-like retribution and take the fight to the enemy, which for many people will include the seemingly apathetic population of an enemy nation. In no way am I condoning terrorism, but I can empathise with those who commit such atrocities."

    You will note that you are talking about British people taking the fight to the enemy - in the case the British people. If that doesn't illustrate to you the depth of divsion within our society then nothing will, but you yourself legitimise this with your "empathy". It's madness, Jamie.

    As a normal citizen living in Birmingham and not affiliated to any politicised group I also think the statement below does not reflect the situation in my community:

    "But how much of a problem is it? Does it threaten Britain's existence? Hardly."

    It's a huge and growing problem that is going largely unreported in the mainstream media. I have friends from uni who teach in Brum and although annecdotal tales are pointless here, the stories I'm hearing from them worry me greatly.

    Groups like the EDL have come into existence precisely because people who live in areas like mine are utterly disenfrachised, frightened and then insulted as Islamaphobes, racists or fascists for raising concerns by people who don't know them and have never walked in their shoes, let alone their areas.

    Inevitably the streets have become the only forum left to express their concerns and as you rightly suggest, this is due to a total failure of politics and politicians. If they stop allowing the spiritual mentors of Al Qaeda into the UK where they spread hatred, radicalise youth and recruit for jihad in mainstream Mosques then there wouldn't be a reason for the EDL to exist.

    In the absence of that, likeminded people with justifiable concerns are begining to organise and act themselves. Moderates like you need to be engaging with these people because if you don't and merely try to demonise them, the left will deliver a street army into the hands of people with far more sinister intentions.

    Thanks for reading,

    Jay

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  19. A voice of true reason from the general public.

    Thank you Jay.

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  20. Thank you Jay for a sensible comment, however, I take issue you with you saying I legitimise terrorism. You may have got that impression but it wasn't my intention. Rather, my empathy is an attempt to understand why people feel compelled to commit terrorist acts. If we can't understand their reasoning then how are we to properly address the problem?

    I stand by my comment that I don't believe Islamic extremism is a major threat to this country (and in fact think it is being misreported by the mainstream media) but I also don't deny that there is a problem.

    I agree with what you on people who speak out being denounced as fascists etc. This is a problem the left are guilty of, preferring instead to avoid a discussion of the issue. That may sound hypocritical of me in light of what I've written above, but to me there is a difference between people with concerns about extremism and people like the EDL who it seems have wider issues with Islam.

    I also agree that moderates like myself must engage with these people rather than demonise them, which I'll admit I've been somewhat guilty of in my haste to publish the above. In this post though I was trying to draw attention to the role of this country's foreign policy in helping to create an environment for extremism to gain ground rather than just the problems of the failed classes, but I did say the latter should be addressed and have done so more explicitly in other posts regarding the BNP too.

    Again, thank you for your comment.

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  21. Islamaphobia.

    A phobia is an irrational fear of something. There is nothing irrational about the fear of islamic extremism in this country.

    On the whole a very balanced argument going on here though.

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