Friday, July 01 2016

MoD to investigate servicemen support for far-right

Islamophobia Watch draws our attention to a report in the Star on Sunday which states that the Ministry of Defence are investigating evidence presented by the paper that serving soldiers are involved with the far right English Defence League.

From the Star on Sunday:

“Last night the Ministry of ¬Defence launched an inquiry ¬after we presented them with ¬evidence of two serving ¬soldiers who openly support the racist group and who have attended ¬violent marches.

“Yorkshire Regiment squaddie ¬Cavan Langfield, 18, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, began -training as a soldier aged 16.

“But the MoD was shocked to learn Langfield has become a dedicated supporter of the EDL, travelling across the country to attend ¬marches and boasting online of his violent activities.

“On his Facebook account he has pictures of himself posing with ¬automatic weapons in full uniform next to images of EDL demonstrations. He names his political views as “English Defence League”.

“His online pal Brandon Neal, 18, is a British infantry soldier training in Canada before being deployed to Afghanistan. He openly promotes his links to the far-right group.

“Neal, from Devon, uses social ¬networks to keep in touch with EDL members and posts pictures of his Army kit and weapons alongside ¬images of their protests, listing his interests as “football hooliganism” and being an “Islamophobe”.

“On one picture of Neal’s ¬rifle, a friend suggests he should take the weapon to an EDL march in Dewsbury, West Yorks, which was held recently. His chilling reply was “We’ll need em”.

“The organisation’s hate-filled ¬message has made it all the way to Afghanistan, where one masked ¬soldier posed in front of an EDL flag with a rifle.

“The MoD said the matter had been “dealt with internally”.

“A spokesman said: ‘The Army is clear that racism of any kind is ¬unacceptable.

“‘Instances of such behaviour brought to our attention are investigated and appropriate action taken, up to and including dismissal.

“‘While personnel are free to join political parties, they are expected to abide by our values and standards in all they do.’ ”

News of support amongst armed servicemen for far right organisation such as the English Defence League, and engagement in racist and often violent activities is not new. A recent report published by the Institute for Race Relations noted how organisations such as the BNP and EDL have exploited the bitterness that taints soldiers returning home to societies where opinions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are divided and often negative. The EDL even has an ‘Armed Forces Division’. Moreover, there have been notable incidents of former servicemen’s involvement in anti-Muslim hate crimes, including a case last year in which an ex-soldier was sentenced to ten years in prison for attempting to blow up a mosque. In a more recent case a former soldier was fined for racially abusing an Asian female police officer.

Reports of far right, Islamophobic tendencies in the army are all the more worrying when one learns of the involvement of Islamophobic personalities in the training of the armed forces, as ENGAGE covered last week. Some institutions have taken explicit steps to ban involvement with far right organisations. Notably, the General Synod of the Church of England recently voted in support of a motion to draw up a policy similar to that adopted by the police, which bans any member of the police service from being a member of an organisation whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the "general duty" to promote race equality, with a specific ban on membership of the BNP.

It is also worth noting that although the Daily Star may be standing up against Islamophobia in presenting such information to the MoD, the paper has arguably been one of the foremost culprits in British newspapers’ tendencies to report on Muslims and Islam in a biased and Islamophobic manner, thus fomenting those prejudices which it appears to seek to challenge. The issue was pointed out to the Daily Star’s editor, Dawn Neesom at the Leveson Inquiry, and ENGAGE also raised the issue in its evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, which you can access here.

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