Friday, July 01 2016

Stephen Lennon’s ‘radical’ Rochdale rant

Islamophobia Watch alerts us to a column in yesterday’s Asian Image by commentator and activist, Majed Iqbal, on some of the insidious comments made by the English Defence League leader, Stephen Lennon, at the demonstration held in Rochdale last weekend.

From Asian Image:

“This weekend saw the English Defense League pouring into Rochdale to protest against what they believe was underlying cultural issues which saw nine men convicted last month for grooming under-age girls for sex.

“EDL visited last year too in March, voicing concern over the same issue.

“But this time it was different. The arguments were more refined and directed.

“It wasn’t the usual rants that have been echoed by EDL members at national rallies; “extremist Islam is the problem”, or “Muslims want Shariah law”.

“Outside Rochdale Town centre, EDL leader, Tommy Robinson held the Quran and said, “This book legitimises the rape, prostitution and abuse of our daughters”.

“Crowds cheered him on as he continued to deplore what he referred to as a ‘7th century text’

“The reason why these men rape these children it could be because they’re perverted criminals, but It could be they’re following this manual.

“"When will the police and politicians realise the link between this and them men raping our kids…..This is the link. Be brave enough to identify it.” Said Tommy Robinson in front of a packed crowd of around 200 people “What is stopping me from burning it (the Quran)?”

“Protestors in the crowd began jeering, whilst some said “Let me burn it Tommy” offering lighters."

The recent court case in which nine men from Rochdale were convicted of sex grooming offences has been widely exploited by the EDL and BNP, leaving Muslim organisations fearful of reprisals. On the announcement of a ‘worldwide counter-jihad initiative’, Lennon issuing a statement of support spoke of the predominance of Muslim men in child grooming cases”.

Though shocking, Lennon’s comments are not out of character. At a demonstration in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets last September, Lennon was captured on video making threatening statements towards the Muslim community. He said “…every single Muslim watching this video on YouTube, on 7/7 you got away with killing and maiming British citizens…the Islamic community will feel the full force of the EDL if we see any of our citizens killed, maimed or hurt on British soil ever again”. He was also forced to deny that he supported the Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, after he praised Breivik in an interview published by a Norwegian newspaper in April.

Majed Iqbal concludes by reflecting on how seriously the views espoused by the EDL and other far-right organisations are being taken by the Government and relevant public authorities. The rise in far-right ideology is not something which has been entirely ignored given that the Home Affairs Select Committee report on the ‘Roots of Violent Radicalisation’ published this February pointed to a “growth in more extreme and violent forms of far-right ideology” urging the government to address this in its counter-terrorism strategy. However, Iqbal rightly compares the lack of action to tackle far-right radicalisation to government initiatives on tackling radicalisation in the Muslim community. He writes:

“It is surprising to see there has been no de-radicalisation programs from the government for EDL.

“No demands to report their activities.

“No demand of surveillance from University lecturers to spot signs of radical views. N No [sic] government funding being poured into these communities to work ‘grassroots’ on tackling the ‘problem’ and no signs of proscription for the threatening and inciting comments, especially those aired in Rochdale town centre on the weekend.”

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