September 28, 2011

The EDL: Britain’s “New Far Right” Social Movement

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Forward to 'The EDL: Britain’s “New Far Right” Social Movement'

The University of Northampton is at the forefront of the important academic research into the far-right, an area of increasing importance nationally and internationally. As Member of Parliament for Northampton North, I am very pleased to have been asked to write this Foreword because I applaud the fact that the University in the town where I have lived and worked my whole life, and which I now have the honour to represent in the House of Commons, is leading the way in this key area.

The view of the ‘new far right’ is that we should cut ourselves off from Islam and other religions and cultures. They believe we should do this, as the Prime Minister David Cameron put it earlier this year, ‘through forced repatriation, favoured by some fascists, or the banning of new mosques, as is suggested in some parts of Europe.’

This ideology, or for example the practice of burning the Koran – as promoted by Pastor Terry Jones, who has been excluded from the UK – is utterly abhorrent and must be robustly rejected.

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.

What began in reaction to the deeply offensive abuse of returning British soldiers – our courageous servicemen and women that have made such sacrifices over the years to fight extremism in other parts of the world – has manifested itself, through the development of the EDL, into violence on our streets and a terrifying subculture of casual racism. This report presents a very useful documentation of the EDL’s development, their use of online and social media, their links to football hooliganism, as well as the development of splinter groups.

The advance of copy‐cat organisations like the Norwegian Defence League and others, as documented by the authors, shows not only the urgency for action as a society but also shows the potency of the repugnant values represented by the EDL.

The British National Party, and other far-right parties, may try to attract voters with talk of local politics, of bin collections and council housing shortages to win them votes. But as a fascist organisation that does little to couch its views, it is my opinion that it will always struggle to garner the support of the vast majority of the British public who rejected fascism in the 1930’s, and who continue to do so today.

The EDL, however, by not asking for votes and by arguing that they do really only oppose violent Islamism – though the hypocrisies pointed out by this report are worthy of note – could potentially spearhead a movement that would have damaging consequences and divide communities.

At the same time as we confront this new far‐right politics, we must also do the same for other forms of extremism – for too long, Government policy has encouraged communities to merely co‐exist rather than co‐operate with each other. As a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, I am particularly conscious of this issue and very supportive of the Government’s response to extremism, namely the Prevent strategy, which for the first time explicitly tackles far‐right extremism.

In addition to the recent Prevent policy, this Government is keenly aware of the importance of fostering a stronger sense of belonging and citizenship, co‐ordinated by the Department for Communities and Local Government. By empowering communities and integrating them into society, those communities become much more resilient to terrorist ideology and propaganda.

The Prevent strategy of the previous Government failed to confront extremist ideology and therefore failed to adequately tackle the threat we face. If we wish to combat the rise of the ‘new far‐right’ and the potential for ‘lone‐wolf’ terrorism inspired by such thinking, we must vigorously pursue all forms of radicalisation. I
have every confidence that, through Prevent, the current Government will do this.

This Government is committed to do more than any previous administration has to promote integration. The Prime Minister’s speech in Munich made it clear that the new Prevent strategy will be an unyielding fight against extremism. This report is an important contribution to the study of the threats that this country and Europe are embroiled in today. Rooting out extremism from all quarters must be, and is, a real priority for the Coalition Government. Twenty‐ First Century Britain is about integration and cohesion between all of our different communities.

That both Islamist extremists and the ‘new far-right’ extremists reject this belief is telling. As Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has said, ‘any phobia is by definition the opposite of a philosophy. A phobia is an irrational fear. It takes on a life of its own and no longer needs to be justified.’ It is this that makes the development of the EDL and their ilk of concern. I hope this report plays a part in our greater understanding of this problem, and in developing societal solutions to it.

Forward by Michael Ellis, MP Member of Parliament for Northampton North, Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee September 2011

The full report can be downloaded (as a 2mb PDF file) here.

The EDL: Britain’s “New Far Right” Social Movement

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