On the English Defence League (the “enemy of my enemy” is sometimes still just my enemy)

I know many people might be tempted by the English Defence League due to their opposition to radical Islam but, in reality, their venom is actually directed against Muslims, as a group – and they often engage in rhetoric suggesting that all Muslims are Jihadists.  As such, EDL, it should be clear, is not an anti-totalitarian movement, but rather, a racist one.

Radical Islam, there should be no doubt, represents the biggest threat to the progressive values I cherish – values such as individual liberty, tolerance, religious pluralism, democracy, a free press, gender equality, and gay rights.  Further, I view the fight against this radical, anti-Semiticmillenarianistic movement – diffuse though it is (that is, it’s not represented by any one single state actor) –  as the moral test of our generation.

More broadly, its tragic that there hasn’t developed a broad-based mainstream coalition to fight radical Islam across the globe – one which unites the anti-totalitarian elements within both the left and the right.

While it is, perhaps, understandable that many see the English Defence League (EDL) as political allies in the fight against Jihadism in Europe, all of the available evidence demonstrates that EDL (grass-roots supporters as well as many within its leadership) is far too compromised by affiliations with neo-Nazis, and other radical racist movements, for principled anti-Islamists to make an allegiance with them.

It is simply a fact that some EDL organizers are proven Neo-Nazis


Wayne Baldwin, member of the EDL’s Birmingham Division


In the video clip in this Modernity post you will see Luke Pippen, EDL’s Welsh Division organizer, in front of a house with his friends, tattooed skinheads giving the Nazi salute.

At an EDL protest in Birmingham fascists and right-wing extremists were clearly visible, some happily giving Nazi salutes. They included Chris Renton, a BNP supporter from Weston-super-Mare, who runs their website.

One face seen at most EDL events is Alan Spence from Newcastle upon Tyne. Spence is pretty much now the EDL organizer in Newcastle. Spence, who is a BNP gold member and has only recently deleted swastikas and Combat 18 images from his Facebook page, has appeared in photographs with both his spiritual leaders, Nick Griffin and Chris Robinson.

Davy Cooling, a fully fledged British National Party (BNP) member, is now a key activist in the EDL Luton “division”. This is demonstrated by his status as administrator of the Luton division’s Facebook group. Cooling still shows interest in the party, as shown by his posting on the Facebook site of the BNP’s 2009 Red, White and Blue Festival, which said: “I may attend, it will be my first one – what’s the score?”

It has been revealed that the leader of the English Defence League is a former BNP member who has served 12 months’ imprisonment for assaulting an off-duty police officer. Self-proclaimed EDL leader Tommy Robinson is really Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, from Bedford.


EDL leader "Tommy Robinson"


Kevin Carroll is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the EDL. It was revealed in a BBC documentary, Young, British and Angry, that he had signed the nomination papers in the 2007 Luton council elections for Robert Sherratt, a BNP candidate and activist in the Nazi November 9th Society.

BNP, it should be noted, is allied, in the European Parliament, with the nationalist Hungarian party, Jobbik, whose leaders advance an often openly anti-Semitic agenda.  In a newsletter published by a group calling itself “The trade union of Hungarian police officers prepared for action,” the following was printed. “Given our current situation, anti-Semitism is not just our right, but it is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover, and we must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” The editor of the union, Judit Szima, was, at the time, a Jobbik candidate in the upcoming election for the European Union parliament. Szima “didn’t see anything wrong with the content of the article.”

While I’m sure there are plenty of non-racists among the membership of EDL, as well, its clear the group’s leadership is irreparably compromised by racist and extremist allegiances – enough to make me question the motivations of any genuine anti-racist opponents of radical Islam who are flirting with the organization.

Further, there have been some Jews tempted by EDL’s alleged support for Israel, and opposition to anti-Semitism – and EDL has set up a recruitment effort aimed at Jews.  In response, many have argued, quite persuasively, that such “support” merely represents a cynical attempt by EDL to gain respectability.  And, that, ultimately, such support will vanish once the services of their Jewish allies are no longer required.  In such a scenario, it is feared, given EDL’s background and fascist affiliations, it certainly isn’t far-fetched to see them pivot from anti-Islam agitation to anti-Semitism.

As Modernity has pointed out:

“Why [would] neo-Nazis suddenly take a liking to Israelis, and Jews. The problem being is that, neo-Nazis don’t like Jews, and in particular Israel as it is seen as the centre of Jewish power. That is something that all neo-Nazis fear the most. A central theme to Nazism is the notion that Jews control and manipulate events around the world from a central location, in this case Israel. [Warning: illustrative links to original Nazi propaganda, nasty racist material.]  It is hardly credible that entrenched neo-Nazis would suddenly wake up one-day and decide “Yes, we like Israelis.”  It seems incongruous, and ever so improbable.”

As Jon Benjamin, UK Board of Deputies chief executive, said:

“The EDL’s supposed ‘support’ for Israel is empty and duplicitous. It is built on a foundation of…hatred which we reject entirely.”

The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a tempting but dangerous road to go down.  Whether or not the EDL decides to turn on its Jewish/Zionist supporters is not really the main point.  What’s at stake is more than our safety.  Its our integrity.

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