The coalition government has unveiled new laws that target Muslims, while across Europe there is growing Islamophobia. But our movement can resist this onslaught, argues Hassan Mahamdallie.
The demonisation and securitisation of Britain’s Muslims are accelerating at a bewildering pace. What prime minister David Cameron meant in his speech in Munich in February 2011 by his call to flex “muscular liberalism” in response to the so-called “war on terror” is becoming clearer by the day. As is the grotesque myth of “superior” Western liberal ideas and values continually vaunted by politicians in Europe and on both sides of the Atlantic.
Fifty years ago last month Dr Martin Luther King was being feted in Europe as he travelled to Norway to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. The previous year his legendary speech at the end of the March on Washington had captivated a worldwide audience. In its aftermath the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and a voting rights act would follow in 1965.
The EDL has fragmented since it suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) over the past few years.
Its leader, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), defected to an “anti-extremist” organisation, abandoning his former supporters. The motley crew that turns out at EDL protests has been reduced to a handful of thugs, many associated with old fascist groups.
The vicious attack that left Stephen Lawrence bleeding to death at a south east London bus stop in 1993 was a racist murder that left a family heartbroken and many people angry.
There had already been other racist murders — Orville Blair, Rolan Adams and Rohit Duggal. Since the fascist British National Party (BNP) had opened its headquarters in Welling, south east London, racially motivated attacks had increased by a staggering 200 percent, leading the area to be named “Britain’s racist murder capital”.
A recent survey suggests racial prejudice in Britain is increasing. Some argue this explains the rise of Ukip. Brian Richardson argues that the real picture is much more contradictory and complex.
Rising tide of race prejudice across Britain” screamed the front page headline in the Guardian at the end of May. This depressing declaration, which was repeated in similar terms across the press and media, came just days after Ukip topped the poll with 27.5 percent of the votes and 24 seats in the European elections.
Paul Sillet, UAF national campaigner
When the EDL first emerged in 2009 we thought, "What is this new beast?" We noticed that there were former BNP, Combat 18 and National Front types around the demos, if not necessarily on them. Those on the demos were mainly from the "firms" - football supporters involved in inter-club violence - and others.
The EDL were attracting supporters to the prospect of launching mini pogroms in places like Luton and Dudley. At the time we were facing a possible BNP electoral breakthrough alongside a growing fascist street movement.
Leicester was one of the turning points in the battle to stop the EDL. It was to be the first major UAF demo built locally, despite facing a national mobilisation by the fascists. At the time it represented an attempt to turn the EDL strategy on its head. Instead of them leaving behind local groups, UAF would use the opportunity to put down deep roots.
Leicester had been trying to get a local UAF group running for a while. We had managed to get a number of people to some of the national mobilisations against the EDL, as well as days of action against the BNP. We that knew sooner or later the fascists would target our multiracial city.
When the EDL announced they would march on 9 October 2010 we assumed that there would be a national UAF mobilisation. But we received a call from the UAF national office telling us that we had to build a local demo. Our first reaction was, "You've got to be joking!"
Dean Harris and Natasha Munoz, Waltham Forest UAF
Dean: 'As soon as we discovered that the fascists would come to Waltham Forest we called a meeting and invited everyone we could. No one was to be excluded. We wanted it to be as broad as possible, even though there were others who disagreed - especially some people who wanted to exclude the Labour Party as they accused them of implementing austerity.
To us it was clear that we needed to build a big movement, despite any other disagreements. It was a big advantage to have Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy with us. She played important role in the campaign.
Kelvin Williams, UAF photographer
When Tommy Robinson and Kevin Caroll announced they quit the EDL it was greeted with acrimonious disappointment by the foot soldiers. The constant opposition they faced was the chief factor in them drawing the conclusion that the street movement was no longer working.