The English Defense League (EDL) has announced that it intends to call mass marches in a number of towns and cities throughout the UK.
Targeting the Muslim communities the EDL brand of racism draped in the British flag is without doubt one of the most serious developments taking place in British politics today.
The EDL is planning marches in Bradford, Bradford and Dudley all areas with large multicultural and multi faith communities. The recent political collapse of the BNP has created a vacuum that the EDL are intent in exploiting.
This extremely violent right wing group an amalgamation of disaffected BNP members, Combat 18 and football hooligans claims not to support racism however time and time again they have been shown to be racist to their very core. A recent Guardian undercover investigation recorded countless examples of members of the EDL and their supporters promoting racial hatred and violence.
Racism in the media has also created a climate of profound intolerance towards Muslim communities. Isalmaphobic commentary and news stories are now a regular feature in sections of the British press. Since 9/11 we have seen an endless diatribe of racist and uniformed comment masquerading as the view of the ‘man in the street’. Mainstream political parties added fuel to this fire by continually seeking to gain political advantage by making speeches and public announcement that amount to conceding to racism. This is a dangerous game and results in giving a green light to violent racism.
This constant denigration of Islam has created a climate of profound intolerance that has contributed toward the rise of the EDL. What we are witnessing is the normalization of racism in the UK.
Matthew Goodwin, an academic who studies British far-right political trends at Manchester University makes this important point well. He said
“The reason why the EDL’s adoption of Islamophobia is particularly significant is that unlike the 1970s, when the National Front was embracing anti-Semitism, there are now sections of the media and the British establishment that are relatively sympathetic towards Islamophobia,” says Goodwin. “It is not difficult to look through the media and find quite hostile views towards Islam and Muslims. That is fundamentally different to the 1970s, when very few newspapers or politicians were endorsing the NF’s anti-Semitic message.”
“The point for your average voter is that if they see the EDL marching through their streets shouting about how the neighborhood is about to be swamped by Muslims or how the UK is going to be Islamified by 2040, they are also receiving these cues from other sections of British society … the message of the EDL may well be legitimised if that continues.”
Mujibul Islam, chair of the youth committee of the Muslim Council of Britain echoed this view:
“It simply would not be acceptable to say the things that are being said on these demonstrations about any other group – black people, Jewish people. But we are now in a position where it seems almost acceptable to say these things about Muslims.”
He said the growth of the EDL was having a real impact on the way ordinary Muslims were being treated:
“A woman I know got on to a tube train which had a lot of EDL supporters on recently and was really badly abused; another man was attacked as he made his way home on the train. These are the consequences of what we are seeing now. It is not just a theoretical debate about freedom of speech.”
In response to these race hate rallies the campaign group Unite Against Fascism are organising counter ‘Stopping the BNP and EDL’ demonstrations and a series of meetings throughout June.
The public meetings will discuss the results of the general and council elections, which saw the BNP lose a swathe of its council seats – including a complete wipe-out in its target area of Barking and Dagenham.
Speakers will discuss how best to tackle the BNP who despite their electoral collapse have not gone away, after getting a worrying 563,743 votes across the UK in addition to the combating the English Defence League whose summer programme of race hate marches that look set to increase racial tension over the next few months.
UAF Dates for your diary:
- London Monday 28 June – Friends Meeting House, 173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
- Glasgow Monday 21 June – Scotland Trade Union Council, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6NG
- Manchester Wednesday 23 or Thursday 24 June – to be confirmed
- Leeds Tuesday 29 June – Civic Hall, Calverley Street, Leeds LS1 1UR
- Birmingham Thursday 24 June – details to follow
- Swansea Tuesday 29 June – Guildhall, Swansea SA1 4PE
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