Bronze-level articleEnglish Defence League

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The English Defence League (EDL) is an English organisation that describes itself as "a human rights organisation concerned about how non-Muslims are being marginalised as sharia norms become increasingly embedded in our society"[1] that is "peacefully protesting against Militant Islam." In practice, it is a motley rabble of bigots, football hooligans and the occasional well-intentioned numpty who has been gullible enough to fall for its party line.

Contents

[edit] Origins

The EDL, founded by Stephen Lennon (who goes under the name 'Tommy Robinson') appears to have emerged from a combination of small grassroots organisations which opposed specific anti-war demonstrations, and various football hooligans, mainly in the south and Midlands.[2]

The EDL also has Scottish and Welsh sister organisations; the Scottish Defence League and the Welsh Defence League, respectively. The WDL is run by Jeff Marsh, a former football hooligan and convicted criminal who served two years in prison after stabbing a pair of Manchester United fans.[3]

[edit] Views

[edit] Against Islamic extremism, or Islam in general?

From a discussion at the EDL forum.

As noted above, the EDL's official line is that it opposes Islamic extremism. However, there are factors which arguably make it more accurate to describe the organisation as simply anti-Islamic.

Leader Stephen Lennon has stated that "We are against the building of all mosques because they preach homophobia and anti-Semitism which we should not tolerate in this country."[4]

EDL activists have chanted "We hate Muslims" during a London protest[5] and "I hate Pakis more than you".[6] A demo in Luton ended with EDL supporters attacking Asian-owned businesses.[7]

At the official EDL forum general consensus appears to be that Islam in general is the problem, not just extremists. This leads to such charming sights as someone cheering on the deaths of Muslims in the Pakistani floods in 2010.[8]

A leading light of the EDL is one Guramit Singh, a Sikh who offers these eloquent words of wisdom: "Stick your Allah up your arse, you cunt. Fuck em, fuck em, fuck em. I’m not being funny, fuck em. I may get arrested for this shit, but fuck em, fuck em, I’m not having it, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em,"[9]a position which has placed him somewhat at odds with the ultra-moderate Sikh leadership back in Amritsar.[10]

[edit] Stance on Nazism

From a discussion on the EDL Wigan Facebook page. Despite its anti-Nazi stance, the EDL sometimes makes unfortunate choices in its support

Officially, the EDL opposes neo-Nazism. However, both it and its sister organisations have managed to attract Nazi sympathisers. During a protest at Swansea, Welsh Defence League supporters burned an anti-Nazi flag[11] while others were spotted making the Nazi salute.[12] EDL members have also been caught giving the Nazi salute during protests in Birmingham[13] and Manchester.[14] Members of various neo-Nazi groups, most notably Combat 18, have joined EDL demos.[15]

[edit] Relationship with other organisations

[edit] Anti-fascist groups

From a discussion at the EDL forum.

The EDL harbours a particular hatred for Unite Against Fascism, an anti-fascist organisation chaired by Ken Livingstone. There has been a long-running spat between the two groups, with both organisations using the same tactics against each other and never really getting anywhere. This results in certain commentators opposing both groups.[16][17]

[edit] The BNP

The EDL has an off-and-on relationship with the BNP. An official BNP press release declared the EDL a "honey trap" that "is completely proscribed for any members of the British National Party".[18] The EDL website, in turn, has declared that "the English Defence League denounces the British National Party!... there are racist idiots involved in the BNP, Its [sic] current leader was a member of the National Front and one of the founders, John Tyndall was a Neo Nazi. Why would the EDL want to be linked to the BNP?"[19]

Despite this, individuals from the two organisations have collaborated. The official EDL website was set up by Chris Renton, who was listed as an "activist" on the leaked BNP membership list[20] (when questioned, EDL spokesman Paul Ray admitted Renton's involvement); Davy Cooling, who helps run the EDL, has previously attended BNP rallies;[21] Sean Walsh, a Luton-based EDL activist, is a member of the BNP's Bedfordshire Facebook group;[22] and BNP party activists have been photographed at EDL demos.[23]

According to a report from Demos the BNP is the most popular party amongst EDL supporters, with 34% voting for it.[24]

[edit] Sweden Democrats

EDL strategists have also "advised the far-right Sweden Democrats on tactics".[25] The SD have been involved in various controversies, including party candidates having been outspoken members of Sweden's largest neo-Nazi group,[26] candidates having been in white supremacist rock bands[27] and a candidate having written several anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying letters.[28]

[edit] Tea Party

Part of another discussion at the EDL forum.

As expected, the EDL has links with America's Tea Party movement.[29]

[edit] Violence

Despite claims of 'peaceful protest', demonstrations led by the EDL often result in abuse, threats and violence. Several journalists have reported receiving death threats after covering EDL demonstrations.[30]

In June 2011 EDL member Darren Buck was given a prison sentence for threatening two elderly Asian men.[31] Reportedly, twentysomething Muslims Aftab and Mohammed Baig were hospitalised after being thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked by EDL protesters during a 18th June march in Dagenham.[32]

At around the same time a Yorkshire concert named Rage Against Racism was attacked by EDL supporters. "A group of around 15 people, estimated to be aged between 16 and 23 barged into the premises shouting and chanting ‘EDL’", said Kevin Berry, assistant manager of the venue holding the event. "They were throwing bottles and rocks. The police attended quickly and arrests were made."[33]

During the August 2011 riots in London, the EDL turned up with the aim of "assisting the police" (a euphemism for vigilantism, if you hadn't guessed). Though instead of helping, they stood around all day getting drunk and just ate up police resources.[34] So, just like proper vigilantes, then.

[edit] Facebook rantings

From a July 2011 discussion on the EDL Facebook page

Bigoted comments and endorsements of violence are often found to have been posted on Facebook groups connected with the EDL. When confronted with this, Lennon dismissed critics who "keep reverting back to Facebook, where anyone can go under any name and put anything. That is no evidence against our organisation in any way; you will not find them sort of things on our website".[35]

Some members of the official EDL forum have suggested that the group leave Facebook for these reasons.[36]

Leaving Facebook might be advantageous for other reasons, such as to avoid embarrassing incidents like mistaking the Brighton Pavilion for a mosque.

[edit] Post-Lennon

In October 2013, original leader Stephen Lennon announced that he was leaving the EDL due to concerns about the growing racism within the organisation;[37] he was replaced as chairman by Tim Ablitt. Shortly afterwards, the group began to fracture: its Bristol division left to become the Bristol Defence League, while the Merseyside, Scunthorpe and East Anglia divisions joined up with United Patriots, a group run by former EDLer Tony Curtis.[38]

[edit] Notable people

[edit] Members and ex-members

Amongst the group's more controversial former members is John "Snowy" Shaw, who has reportedly fallen for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, saying that "all true British patriots take the time to read this".[39]

Roberta Moore, who once led the group's Jewish division, was criticised for her relationship with the Jewish Task Force. She left the EDL on the grounds that it had picked up Nazi elements; "I sincerely hope that the leaders will get the strength to squash the Nazis within", she said.[40]

Richard Price, who led the EDL's West Midlands division, has been convicted of violent behaviour, downloading indecent images of children and possessing drugs.[41]

The EDL is home to a large number of members who, while not necessarily particularly prominent in the group, have succeeded in making it a laughing stock online. A good example is Darrell Copeland, who announced his desire to "slaughter some Muzzy scum" in a crusade following the discovery of Richard III's remains (the poor, befuddled soul seemed to be confusing Richard III with Richard I).[42] He had previously been jailed for assaulting a police officer.[43]

[edit] Supporters

The EDL was supported by Pamela Geller; Devin Burghart of the Kansas-based Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights has stated that she is acting as a link between the EDL and the Tea Party.[29] "No one in America has taken as much heat as I have for supporting the EDL", says Geller. "From their first demo, when they were denounced and smeared as the scum of the earth, I knew the EDL was noble and true." She subsequently distanced herself from the group and expressed concerns over the EDL falling victim to "anti-Semitic infiltration".[44] She has since rekindled her support of the EDL and after she and Robert Spencer were banned from entering the United Kingdom, Daily Mail journalist and fellow critic of Islam, Melanie Phillips wrote an article condemning the decision while also criticising the EDL, earning offense and outrage from Geller herself who accused Phillips of cowardice and class snobbery. Phillips is now regarded by many critics of Islam as a dangerous apostate for her condemnation of the EDL.

Anders Behring Breivik has been fingered as an EDL supporter. His manifesto is critical of the group but sees potential in it, arguing that "[i]nstead of condemning and rejecting organisations like EDL it is essential that conservative intellectuals contribute to help them on the right ideological path. And to ensure that they continue to reject criminal, racist and totalitarian doctrines."[45]

[edit] Celebrity endorsements (sort of)

One tactic of the EDL is to falsely claim celebrities either support or have joined them. They do this by having an EDL member standing next to an unsuspecting celeb and have having their picture taken.[46] Mammarily-enhanced model Katie Price, fist-wielding footballer Joey Barton and walking Daily Mail Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson have all been caught out this way, and all had to issue statements denying any involvement. It would be sinister if it weren't pathetic and laughable.[47]

[edit] Critics

David Cameron has stated that "The EDL are terrible people, we would always keep these groups under review and if we needed to ban them, we would ban them or any groups which incite hatred."[48]

A more nuanced commentary came from the think tank Demos, which published a report entitled "Inside the EDL" in October 2011. This report argued that the group should not be banned, that restricting its right to protest may make it more extreme, and that more tolerant supporters of the group should be engaged with.[49] Sound familiar?

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. English Defence League: EDL Anti Nazi Message - 'No Sharia, No Nazis, No Islamonazis' at the Wayback Machine (archived June 6, 2011)
  2. BBC News - Who are the English Defence League?
  3. http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/article/11/businessman-bankrolls-street-army
  4. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/400-will-march-against-new-Cambridge-mosque-claims-EDL-21062011.htm
  5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/13/english-defence-league-protest-palestinian
  6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/11/english-defence-league-chaotic-alliance
  7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/11/english-defence-league-chaotic-alliance
  8. http://fstdt.net/QuoteComment.aspx?QID=75535
  9. Guramit Singh in Anti-Muslim Tirade, Bartholomew's Notes on Religion. A YouTube video of the speech is also available here.
  10. EDL spokesman Guramit Singh given ultimatum: Renounce EDL or face excommunication by global Sikh authorities
  11. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1238213/This-England-On-trail-English-Defence-League.html
  12. http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2009/10/18/welsh-defence-league-show-true-colours-91466-24954821/
  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIoX0wpt7dU&
  14. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktjgruyxrhk
  15. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1238213/This-England-On-trail-English-Defence-League.html
  16. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=107065105978728
  17. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=115671308453211
  18. http://bnp.org.uk/2009/10/english-defence-league-%E2%80%9Choney-trap%E2%80%9D-proscribed-by-bnp/
  19. English Defence League: A Letter To Members And Supporters Of The Turban Campaign at the Wayback Machine (archived May 11, 2011)
  20. http://www.thestirrer.co.uk/protestors-brit-muslims-are-all-extremists-0707091.html
  21. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/11/english-defence-league-chaotic-alliance
  22. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1238213/This-England-On-trail-English-Defence-League.html
  23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8250017.stm
  24. [1] Page 5
  25. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/6284184/The-English-Defence-League-will-the-flames-of-hatred-spread.html
  26. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwwwc.aftonbladet.se%2Fnyheter%2F9912%2F02%2Fnazi1.html
  27. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwwwc.aftonbladet.se%2Fnyheter%2F9912%2F02%2Fnazi1.html
  28. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.expo.se%2F2003%2F48_839.html
  29. 29.0 29.1 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/oct/10/english-defence-league-tea-party
  30. Guardian Online - English Defence League: chaotic alliance stirs up trouble on streets
  31. http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/local/edl_thug_abused_old_men_1_3496010
  32. http://www.mpacuk.org/story/200611/mpacuk-press-release-edls-vicious-attack-muslim-bystanders.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+mpacuk+%28MPACUK.ORG%29
  33. http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/arrests_after_yorkshire_anti_racism_gig_stormed_1_3500239
  34. BBC News - England riots: When is it right to turn vigilante?
  35. http://youtu.be/4RdJ4dpRQeE?t=5m
  36. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/File:EDLfacebookno.jpg
  37. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24442953
  38. http://edlnews.co.uk/index.php/latest-news/latest-news/1269-edl-fall-apart-due-to-bitter-infighting
  39. http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/1287/infidel-leader-praises-the-protocols
  40. http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/50932/edl-jewish-division-leader-roberta-moore-quits
  41. http://edlnews.co.uk/index.php/featured-stories/9-the-edl-and-paedophiles
  42. http://edlnews.co.uk/index.php/featured-stories/derek-fender-corner/1011-darrell-copeland-confuses-richard-iii-with-lionheart
  43. http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/article/1945/five-months-for-protester-who-hit-policeman-a
  44. http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/07/the-obama-plan-abbas-us-should-not-have-veto-power-over-middle-east-quartet-decisions-.html
  45. 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, page 1241
  46. England's finest?
  47. EDL falsely claims to have recruited Joey Barton
  48. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2010/05/06/david-cameron-makes-dash-to-west-midlands-97319-26385771/
  49. [2] Pages 7-8
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