The English Defence League was established in Luton in March 2009 in response to verbal abuse at the return of the Royal Anglian regiment by a group of extremist Muslims ( from the group Al-Muhajiroun).
Extremist Muslim anti-British activities have been the subject of widespread concern over the last year and so chimed with the EDL’s established position.
- the outcry at the proposed march through Wootton Bassett of Anjem Choudary’s Islam4UK organisation ( since banned, as has the Al-Muharjiroun group under UK Terrorism legislation)
- disgust at the burning of poppies by Muslims against Crusades ( another Choudary vehicle in London on 11 November 2010.
- general rising concern over the incidence of extremist Muslim activities, globally.
How have the EDL managed to turn a popular cause into one where they are villified for being Nazi, racist, fascist amongst others, and similarly where they brand anyone who is not totally supportive as being anti-British, communist and scum? From the outset, the subtle distinction between being against extremist Muslims ( a sub-set of a population which is not universally from one race, specific ethnic group, or colour) and being against all Muslims ( particularly those who are of Asian descent) has eluded most of the EDL’s membership. A lot of the chanting, and forum posts are clearly anti-Muslim and in some cases racist expecially when there are references to “pakis”. This took them away from a focus on criminal, anti-British activities to one which targetted a significant element of the law abiding population.
The EDL increased in size to include a range of football based groups including Casuals United, together with people and groups with a history of racist tendencies. This set the scene and culture in the way that the group developed and heavily influenced its public perception. Whilst there were a number of women that have attended, this is still at very token levels, as is the incidence of non-white people, despite the pleas of being multi-racial.Constitutionally the EDL are not racist, and this official position does influence the casual observer. They purport to be peaceful but the evidence is to the contrary and the use of marshalls has helped – most successfully at Newcastle. Their brave attempts to contain those who are set on causing trouble failed at Leicester and Bradford.
As is the case with a lot of organisations their failure was to drift from their founding principles and lack of clarity over core purpose.The remit of the EDL has seemingly grown to include
- “No to Sharia Law” which seems to have no meaningful correlation with extremism,
- protesting against building of Mosques ( Dudley) where they have been approved by the local authorities,
- supporters of Israel and Zionism ( and therefore anti-Palestine) which has resulted in an association with the American Rabbi Nachum Shifren speaking at the rally outside the Israeli Embassy.
- being openly Anti-Muslim by their chanting and pseudo-academic analysis of the Quran with isolated references to under-age marriage and other such de-contextualised statements.
Since the heady days of Bolton and Dudley where several thousand turned up, and the violent free mass march of Newcastle, things have gone down hill, and despite 50,000+ followers on Facebook very few people are prepared to attend and support, wary of the impact of the vocal minority and the high risk of being hurt.
An organisation which started out as a cause which could have had a broad base of support has lost direction through fractured and incompetent leadership into one that has lost sight of the core value of why it was created. The public consider it now as a violent force for bad, and the people of Bradford and Leicester made their feelings very clear that any attempt to divide a well-integrated community would not be tolerated. Embarrassment in Amsterdam means that they have been dealt another blow.Despite this “bloodied nose” they seem to remain defiant for their self-righteous cause in the face of a lot of adverse publicity. Time will tell whether the leadership take them on a spiralling descent into darkness, or whether they reflect, re-invent themselves, and rid the membership of the elements that are completely undermining any validity that their original cause had.
More picture of EDL at Leicester HERE