| ||The Northampton Chronicle last week reported on a new report by the Radicalism and New Media Research Group at the University of Northampton on the English Defence League, “The EDL: Britain’s “New Far Right” Social Movement”.|
Michael Ellis MP, Member of Parliament for Northampton North and member of the Commons’ Home Affairs select committee, writes in his foreword to the report:
'Extremism of any kind is a threat to our country and to our way of life. In the Prime Minister’s speech to the Munich Security Conference on how best to tackle this threat David Cameron made the point that groups on the far right, such as the English Defence League, fuel Islamophobia with their poisonous and deeply erroneous stance that Islam and the West do not mix.
‘No one can doubt the importance and relevance of the subject at hand. One must only look at the terrible atrocity this summer in Norway at the hands of a murderous terrorist – in the name of a crazed war against Islam – to see the relevance and currency of the subject matter in this report.
‘The potential for this kind of extremism to lead directly to ‘lone‐wolf’ terrorism is also dealt with in this report. These developments show the danger of allowing extremist views on any side to fester.’
Dr Matthew Feldman, co-author of the report, writes:
‘[F]or all the novelty, the EDL represents at the same time an age-old phenomenon: the politics of hate. This hatred is directed overwhelmingly at Asian Muslims in Britain – although such discrimination is often absent, with Sikhs and secular Asians also facing abuse by EDL supporters – who are subjected to a collective prejudice that is wholly alien to British values of tolerance and individual responsibility. For all its rhetoric, the EDL promotes exclusion, division, and a casual racism at street level. It is a key driver in the ‘tit-for’-tat’ radicalisation which, in turn, has been a central area of research by the Radicalism and New Media Research Group.
‘Ample evidence is adduced, troublingly, to suggest that the EDL’s signature anti-Muslim politics – if not its thuggish and violent means of expression – has a much wider purchase in British society than even the tens of thousands of ‘followers’ registered on Facebook.'’
The executive summary of the report alludes to the impact of negative reporting on Islam and Muslims in the UK media and the ‘significant degree’ to which it shapes both the EDL’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and influences biased attitudes in the population at large .
According to the report:
‘The English Defence League’s ‘new far right’ activism is largely driven by a single issue, namely a potent anti-Muslim agenda. In the wake of 9/11 and 7/7, this prejudice has been strong within British culture, and resonates troublingly amongst elements within the wider public today. To a significant degree, this anti-Muslim attitude is dependent upon negative media representations. The presence of a wider culture of anti-Muslim prejudice is crucial to the EDL’s on-going viability. Should anti-Muslim sentiment significantly decline in the UK, it is likely that any wider support for the EDL, in its current form, would also decline.’
The report can be read here.
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