Sunday, June 26 2016

Who's Afraid of the EDL?

 BBC Asian Network yesterday broadcast a documentary presented by Catrin Nye titled “Who’s Afraid of the EDL?

The areas covered in the documentary included who the EDL are and what they say they stand for; the attempts of the EDL to forge links with other anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic groups in America and Europe; and how the government can respond to the threat that the EDL poses. The documentary finished with EDL leader, Stephen Lennon, who also goes by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, taking part in a face-to-face meeting with Mohammad Ayoub, a founder of Muslim youth magazine “The Revival.”

The documentary is replete with examples that highlight the double standards and ignorance of the group's leading members. In one example of the double standards of the EDL narrative, Lennon comments that “I want my children to grow up in a safe and prosperous Britain” and yet his group, through their tactics of intimidation and violence, seeks to deny this right to Muslim children.

Lennon reveals that he is the son of Irish immigrants, adding “I’m not really English” but “my belief is that you don’t have to have English blood. If you’re a Sikh or you’re black and you’re born in England, you’re English.”

That is, unless you’re black, born in England and a Muslim. And what of Asians, born in England that are Muslim, or whites born in England to white families and that are Muslim?

He goes on to accuse Islam of “ruling with fear” and yet remains oblivious to the fact that his organisation operates through the precise methodology that he is accusing Islam of employing.

When Catrin interviews senior EDL member, Guramit Singh, he astonishingly cites his Sikh upbringing as the reason for his hatred of Islam. He claims Sikhs have been trying to “protect the world from Islam” for “300-400 years.”

When asked by Catrin about EDL members being concerned with Islam rather than just “militant Islam”, Singh says: “Oh, 100%. I mean, what you’ve got to understand is Islam is a militant religion.”

“I believe that if the moderates don’t stand up, they will get tarnished with the same brush as the militants.”

By his definition, however, no Muslim can be moderate apart from perhaps one that abandons any trace or expression of his faith.

Commenting on EDL attempts to forge links with anti-Islamic groups from America and Europe, Professor Matthew Goodwin, warns that it will be harder to respond to a broad cross-border alliance against Muslims and Islam. Domestically, he says that there has been “no real response” from the government and main political parties to the EDL. He says that they would “run the risk of losing sections of support among the white working class” if they were to “talk tough” on the EDL but says that this issue is something that the parties need to think about because of the prospect of a spiral of extremism within Britain being instigated if, for example, “you had far-right activists bomb a mosque.”

He adds:

“More substantively, there’s got to be a discussion about the public’s anxieties towards the Muslim communities.”

This, he says, can either come from mainstream politicians who can try to explain more pro-actively the contribution that British Muslims make to society, or from within the Muslim community itself who can be more forceful in highlighting the contribution that they make.

Unfortunately however, the message of the contribution of British Muslims to Britain is more often than not drowned out by a much more forceful right-wing media that concentrates on fringe elements that cause undue trouble rather than the majority of Muslims that go about their lives normally as British citizens. This is compounded by politicians from across the mainstream parties that have exploited anti-Muslim prejudice rather than alleviate it.

The final part of the documentary is a face-to-face meeting between Stephen Lennon and Mohammad Ayoub of Revival magazine. The exchanges between Lennon and Ayoub serve to highlight that when the narrative employed by far right extremists on Islam is put under the spotlight and challenged, it quickly unravels.

At one point, Lennon accuses the Quran of “teaching Muslims to lie in order to further Islam” – to which Ayoub correctly replies, “you’ve just made that up.”

Lennon remained silent when Ayoub states that Shariah law “tells me that I can’t contravene the laws of the country that I live in. I can’t break British laws. You did not know that because you didn’t understand that.”

Upon accusing Muslims of “not integrating in a way everyone else is”, Lennon is challenged to define integration – to which he replies, “I’m proud; I’m English; I love this country.”

We can happily state that, given Lennon’s own definition, British Muslims are happily integrated.

You can listen to the full documentary here.

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