A few posts ago I wrote about my distaste for the Facebook group “…It’s funny how our flag offends you but our benefits don’t!!!…”.
I was therefore extremely interested in yesterday’s front page main story in The Guardian.
The article talks about the activities of the far-right English Defence League, an organisation that was formed in 2009 and which has already mounted a number of provocative and confrontational street protest marches that have descended into violence.
According to the Guardian report, their undercover investigation has identified
a number of known rightwing extremists who are taking an interest in the movement – from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups.
This marks a return to the kind of far-right street action approach that marked the late 1970s and early 1980s. The tactics are similar to those employed by Ulster Loyalist organisations during the Troubles; marches planned for areas where the organisers know that there will be a concerted and often violent response. In the case of the EDL, this means targeting areas of Britain where there are large Muslim communities.
Their tactic is clearly designed to provoke a hard-line response, because this will demonstrate that their propaganda about “Islamic Extremism” is in some way correct.
According to Nick Lowles, of the anti-fascist group Searchlight;
“What we are seeing is more organised fringe elements – the National Front, old networks of Combat 18 people and members of the BNP – who are getting involved specifically to try and use the EDL to spark serious disorder,” says Lowles. “This is a serious development; we just need one of these demonstrations to go wrong – for there to be a serious incident – and it won’t just lead to disorder in Dudley, Bolton or wherever, it will spread to towns and cities across the country.”
The most worrying aspect of this isn’t that the far-right is mobilising for street violence, that is pretty much their standard way of operating. The truly alarming thing is how they are drawing support from unlikely areas. There is even an LGBT division of their organisation and they seem to be capable of gaining support from the general public who are worried about the spectre of rampant extremist Islamism in the UK, aided and abetted by articles in the media and by comments made by some politicians and other commentators.
The Guardian article also mentions support for the EDL amongst the Armed Forces. It quotes someone described as a spokeswoman for the EDL, whose husband is a serving soldier, saying;
“The soldiers are fighting Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq and the EDL are fighting it here … Not all the armed forces support the English Defence League but a majority do.”
Now, forgive me for stating the obvious here, but the military are in Afghanistan because the government sent them there, the government hasn’t called upon far-right bully boys and yobs to descend upon British cities and start provoking street battles.
It occurs to me that nothing is as likely to drive hot-headed young Muslims into the arms of the extremists, who are undoubtedly working in the UK as recruiters, so much as the sight of thousands of white thugs targeting their communities, families and homes.
Rather as George W. Bush and Tony Blair tried to claim that pre-invasion Iraq was a hot-bed of Al Qaeda, the EDL are claiming that perfectly normal British Muslim communities are really centres of Islamist Jihad.
The frightening thing is that the actions of the EDL are more likely to make this come true than anything else. I am not denying that there are Muslim extremists who hate the UK and our way of life. It is patently obvious that they do exist. What is important is that we do not give them any more justification for their platform and that we expose the EDL as the neo-Nazi scum that they really are.