Islamist terrorism predates the EDL by many years. Osama bin Laden published his justification for the indiscriminate killing of Americans and Jews everywhere in February 1998 and the ‘secret apparatus’ of the Muslim Brotherhood is believed to have assassinated Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha, then prime minister of Egypt, as long ago as 1948.
According to Detective Superintendent John Larkin of the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit, high profile English Defence League rallies can act as a “potential recruiting carrot” for Islamist terrorism. In response, the EDL have denied any responsibility for feeding Islamist radicalisation, saying:
“The root cause of the problem is the Qur’an.”
Of course, Islamist terrorism predates the EDL by many years. Osama bin Laden published his justification for the indiscriminate killing of Americans and Jews everywhere in February 1998 and the ‘secret apparatus’ of the Muslim Brotherhood is believed to have assassinated Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha, then prime minister of Egypt, as long ago as 1948.
But whilst there may be no causal relationship between the EDL and Islamist terrorism, the anti-Islam demonstrations of the EDL do help to create an atmosphere which is more conducive to Islamist radicalisation.
In particular, their anti-Islam protests and their chants of “we hate Muslims” help Islamist recruiters to argue that there is a ‘war on Islam’ and that the only way to defend against it is by uniting against ‘the West’, possibly using violence. For example, Taji Mustafa of the global revolutionary Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, has argued that EDL protests are part of a:
“Wider campaign by mainstream politicians … to pressurise the community to compromise her Islam.”
Leading to the conclusion:
“In this situation the Muslim community needs to remain focused on adhering to Islam and continue exposing the plans of the British government in the Muslim lands whilst explaining how Islam is an alternative to the political, economic and social breakdown in the world today.”
What Detective Inspector Larkin failed to mention is that the reverse also occurs; the antics of Islamist extremists are a “recruiting carrot” for far-right groups like the EDL. Al-Muhajiroun/Muslims Against Crusaders/Islam4UK have 40-60 members at most and they have not, in recent years, managed to attract more than about 150 people to any of their events.
Indeed, at their carefully stage-managed publicity stunts, media normally heavily outnumber Islamists. Yet it was al-Muhajiroun’s March 2009 protest in Luton against troops returning from Afghanistan that led to the creation of the EDL.
This symbiotic relationship between far-right extremists and Islamists has been noted previously at Left Foot Forward, but Detective Inspector Larkin’s comments come at a particularly interesting time. Nick Lowles of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight recently published an article entitled ‘A plague on both their houses’, in which he stated:
“We stand opposed to both sides. We oppose the racism and Islamophobia of the EDL just as we oppose the religious bigotry and antisemitism of the MAC [Muslims Against Crusades – the latest name for al-Muhajiroun/Islam4UK].
“To hear these Islamist extremists publicly deny the Holocaust and call for the formation of a Muslim Waffen SS Division – as they did today – should rightly sicken every anti-fascist just as much as the racist bile spat out by the EDL and ENA.
“We think it is important to criticise both groups publicly.”
Ending the feedback loop produced by far-right and Islamist extremists exploiting each other’s propaganda has never been a more important goal. Now, with this statement from the people behind ‘Hope Not Hate’ and its successful campaign against the BNP in east London, it is finally getting the recognition it deserves.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.