The English Defence League LGBT division: the dark side of the rainbow

Mostly male, shaven-headed and white, they can be found in almost any of Britain’s urban centres - a jostling crowd beneath a thicket of placards and Crosses of St. George.

Mostly male, shaven-headed and white, they can be found in almost any of Britain’s urban centres – a jostling crowd beneath a thicket of placards and Crosses of St. George.

Whether a dozen people standing in the drizzle in a provincial town, or a baying crowd of thousands flooding through a city centre, the chants and the message are the same: they are the English Defence League and they want Muslims out of the UK.

Occasionally, though, unexpected flags can be seen amongst the ranks of red crosses. Some have a rainbow imposed in the corner, some are Union Jacks with the blue replaced with pink, and it is even possible to spot an occasional Gay Pride flag, emblazoned with the legend, ‘DEFEND FREEDOM: UNITE AGAINST ISLAMIC MENACE’.

The far-right in the UK is made up solely of uneducated, white, heterosexual, working-class men. Or so many people seem to think. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer movement preaches tolerance and inclusion, while the English Defence League is a reactionary, Islamophobic organisation which relies on flag-burning, death threats and violence to communicate its message.

At best the existence of an LGBT division of the EDL seems a bizarre publicity stunt, at worst an underhand attempt to provide legitimacy to a fundamentally racist, homophobic and intolerant organisation.

However behind the intimidating frontline of brute aggression there exists a suit-wearing wing of the EDL which engages in a pseudo-intellectual campaign of indoctrination.

It is easy to see how having a publicly visible LGBT section benefits the EDL as they seek to cover themselves from accusations of homophobia, regardless of whether or not the organisation genuinely wants to protect the LGBT population of the UK.

On the old EDL forum, a post by a gay supporter of the League described how he was turned on and viciously beaten by his supposed comrades, leaving him with “blood pouring out of 2 bad cuts” and a smashed-up car. This is the background of explicit, violent hatred against which the LGBT division operates, and against which they justify their support for the League.

The leader of the EDL LGBT division is a man who goes by the name of Tommy English, a pseudonym possibly taken from the name of a Loyalist paramilitary who committed violent acts against Catholics and Republicans before being murdered himself in 2000.

When I spoke to English, I heard repeated many of the same lines I had already read on the anonymous official statements he presumably helped to create. However, when not repeating this rhetoric, he provided an insight into what could possibly motivate an openly gay man and his boyfriend to devote themselves to an organisation that has proven itself to be homophobic time and again.

Tommy English describes himself as the leader and most active member of a division “about 30 strong”, largely based in London. When I asked him what he was personally fighting against, he stated that “the spread of [Islam] will increase homophobia and homophobic attacks” in the UK.

Official EDL press statements likewise make the claim that “gay people in Britain have far more to fear from Islam than they do from the EDL”. The stance of English and his comrades is that Sharia law is undermining Western democracy and legal systems, and thus threatening the rights of gay people to exercise their sexuality as they please. All other threats to the gay rights movement are seemingly irrelevant before a perceived Islamic menace.

When asked about any antagonism between his division and other sections of the EDL, like that which clashed with the Bristol Pride LGBT event in July 2012, he made his own views extremely clear. To English, “there are NO tensions between straight members and LGBT members. At the end of the day we all have the same goal, sexuality doesn’t come into it”.

Looking at news coverage of EDL protests, it is not difficult to hear homophobic insults being thrown around – attacks that are even more in evidence when browsing their forums, message boards and web pages. Avowed homosexual-hater Terry Jones, the Qur’an burning pastor, has been invited to speak in the UK by the organisation Tommy English represents.

Closer to home, drunken EDL members have allegedly violently assaulted gay men on multiple occasions, such as during the Bristol Pride demonstration, despite their claims to solidarity with the LGBT movement.

To English, though, it is only an ignorant minority at the fringes of the organisation which articulates homophobic views; any implication that homophobia is a prejudice at the very heart of the organisation is evidence that the media does not want to face the truth.

“I’ll tell you something”, he says. “When the media record our marches, when our rainbow flags are approaching, they cut it out and when pictures make the paper they cut out our rainbow flags.” He then went on to tell me about filming an interview with his boyfriend at an EDL march that was never made public, and to state that the “far-left” media are responsible for portraying the EDL as homophobic.

English told me that to him, the only real “Nazis” are the media who he believes misrepresent his cause.

It is easy to write the EDL off as mindless thugs, but to do so is to underestimate them. The intellectual wing of the organisation know they can legitimise their cause by recruiting from minority groups like the LGBT movement, while playing on the desires of young men to fight even when there seems to be no real enemy.

The LGBT division may in part exist as a political device to cover the EDL from accusations of homophobia, but the fact cannot be ignored that there are gay members of the League who are genuinely and actively committed to its cause.

The double standards at play here are obvious to many, but Tommy English and his comrades are disturbingly convinced of the righteousness of their cause and the evils of Islam. This is no mere publicity stunt; Tommy English is real, the EDL LGBT division is real, and their hatred is real too.

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

150 Responses to “The English Defence League LGBT division: the dark side of the rainbow”

  1. Reborn

    Muslims are not a race.
    They belong to a series of ultra right wing political/religious groups
    who have similar attitudes to gays as they do to Jews, & often treat women worse than other living, & tradable, commodities.
    Shouting “racist” when arguments were lost worked 15 years ago,
    it will not do now.
    You like Islam. That’s your prerogative.
    It was also Hitler’s favourite religion, so you’re in good company.

  2. george

    I get the need for regional divisions of the EDL because they allow likeminded people to amass in their local area but the other kinds of divisions; LGBT, Sikh, etc seem like they were made for the public to see. I don’t see the practical use of having a special group for the LGBT other than to separate them from the heterosexuals…?

  3. ismail

    You are totally stupid, I hope you know that just because you have a decent vocabulary does not change that FACT.

  4. ismail

    Also because you are clearly so out of touch with reality, I will help you on this one. Islam is overtly homophobic, it is written CLEARLY throughout the Quran (which you blatantly haven’t read lol) gays are hanged and put to death regularly is Suadi Arabia – which you won’t know but that Country is the IDOL country of Islam.

    You can be put to death there even for being ACCUSED of being homosexual. I wish people like you would just keep quiet and stop pretending to have an understanding of things when they clearly don’t.

  5. ismail

    Sharia IS Islam. You don’t have a very good grasp of your own religion if you don’t know that……which is really pathetic to be honest

  6. ismail

    Obviously it doesn’t come primarily from Muslims you idiot they are a minority. The problem is their ideology is dangerously homophobic and the punishment for homosexuality in Islam is death.

    You wouldn’t know that though, because you’d have to be able to read the Quran to ascertain that – it has some really long words so I’m not surprised you haven’t.

  7. ismail

    LOL this is a new level of stupidity, can I send a medal to you please?

    Who cares you have your head cut off for leaving Islam, or you get your hand ran over by a car/cut off if you steal bread from a market because you’re starving, or you are stoned to death if you’re a woman and get raped, or that women represent half of a man in any legal dispute, who cares you are instructed to beat your wife, or are allowed to have 4 wifes, or can marry a 1 year old and have sex with a 9 year old………..because the other bits are really boring!

    You’re the biggest idiot commenting so far.

  8. Angela Horne

    What do Muslims want with this Christian country here if Islam is so good?

  9. BillSirWilliam

    What a lot of crap, our gay comrades are as passionate about the movement as the rest of us, and all off them have our respect, for standing shoulder to shoulder with us , their sexuality is they concern , and as long as they are happy within themselves , god bless them nfse

  10. Bozo

    The lies of the UAF, such as claims that the EDL is against disabled people, coloured people, and homosexuals have made some people a bit uncomfortable. The EDL has set up these divisions to counter these lies I think.

    I think it is a great idea because now LGBT individuals have a way to air their grievances which are a bit different then those of other EDL members. Example, many homosexuals have felt first hand about the homophobic teachings of Islam.

  11. Bozo

    You are correct about this, the fact is there is enormous support from the Asian community as well, they are sick of Muslim radicals trying to convert their sons and abusing their daughters.

  12. Bozo

    Look into the EDL, they are not who these guys say they are. If you are a minority you will be welcomed with open arms at any EDL meeting or protest, I can vouch for this.

  13. Bozo

    Tommy-phobic and Homo-phobic, figures!

  14. Bozo

    Tommy Robinson is the godfather of a black girl, half his mates are black. Why do you need to lie to make a point?

    You must confront the issues not the individuals, especially not by claiming the EDL is racist…

  15. Bozo

    I know many homosexuals who disagree, but if you are fine with more areas becoming inaccessible to gays, please do, many men and women are not as ignorant as you are.

  16. Bozo

    So what aspect of the EDL is “fascist” and what part of their mission is “racist”?

    I am sure you have the intellectual capacity to figure out the EDL has long proven all of those accusations are lies. Racists are kicked out of the EDL as soon as they are spotted, I have never even seen a fascist element in the EDL,

  17. Bozo

    Read about the EDL from unbiased sources, you will find they are not intolerant of minorities.Since you are highly educated, this should be easy.

  18. Kori

    Well I grew up around a high density muslim population… And also had a pretty big group of openly gay friends in high school. The religious Christian right here in the US gets pretty crazy, without the aid of any other group or religion… As far as I can tell the same is true in the UK. Supporting a group of homophobic racists doesn’t protect you against homophobic muslims. One would THINK that would be common sense…

  19. Bozo

    There is nothing homophobic about the EDL, if you are from the USA don’t comment about something you don’t know about.

    I have never heard about violence from the Christian right(who are they even??) in the UK attacking homosexuals, Muslims attacking homosexuals is common and completely ignored by websites like these.

  20. Bozo

    Some of the gay members of the EDL are even more passionate then many of the straight members!

    More people need to join the EDL to see they are just concerned, decent and brave citizens.

  21. Kori

    Violence is not specific to any one religion. In fact it exists in all kinds of people with all kinds of different belief systems. If I was going to kick out all of the people I didn’t agree with there would be no religion whatsoever, but there would still be violence, so what would be the point of that?

  22. Bozo

    I never heard any respected christian leader call for the beheading of christians in my country, when it happens, it may be a cult or in an impoverished area of the world. Its common(!) for Muslim leaders to do so, and it really doesn’t upset anyone in the Muslim Ulema.

    Prophet Muhammed personally called for the death of homosexuals, and as he is named the “Uswa Husana” in Arabic, which means the perfect role model for muslims to emulate, his words are taken quite serious. Jesus obviously never did anything like it and hence only christian hypocrites would ever want to hurt a homosexual woman or man.

  23. Kori

    Homophobia is something that needs to be addressed in its own right. It need not be mixed up with trying to eradicate an entire group of people – people with a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds – based on their religion rather than focusing specifically on ANY group which commits acts of violence against LGBT and/or allies. It’s counterproductive to fight against one group while keeping another around…

  24. Jen The Blue

    I am sure that’s true Patrick, but the fact is that many factions of Islam do indeed wish homosexuals to be punished often by death.

    As far as I am aware, this is the only large religious group that belives in such things.

    On the other matter – I know at least one homosexual man who has very right wing and racist views.

  25. Petra Thompson

    “You know that not all muslims believe in sharia law?”

    40% of British muslims admit to wanting sharia law.
    62% of British muslims want to see homosexuality criminalised (some want the death penalty).
    99.5% of British muslims openly admit to being anti-gay.

  26. Petra Thompson

    “There have been positive LGBT leaders among the Muslim faith just as there have been destructive bigoted leaders. ”

    Show me those positive LGBT leaders from countries like Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Gaza, Syria, etc. Go on. Do it. I’ll bet you can’t name 5 who are not in fear of their lives.

    A prominent Turkish LGBT leader was shot dead, outside his home, by his own father who travelled 100s of miles across Turkey to do it. And Turkey wants to think itself “european”.

  27. Petra Thompson

    I suggest you go and read some of the ground-breaking gay history books, which show that in the first 1000 years (before christianity was mutated by the onslaught of violent assaults by islam), the church was tolerant of homosexuality.

  28. Flaming Fairy

    Yes, that’s right – fight bigotry with bigotry and then everyone’s fucked. I don’t want areas that are inaccessible to gay people; I don’t want areas that are inaccessible to Muslims either.

  29. Philip

    The bible is also pretty tough on gays – I don’t hear anyone saying that all Christians are homophobic. The fact that some Muslims are nasty, despicable homophobes doesn’t mean that all are. And it’s wrong to judge an entire group because of the actions of some members of that group. If you can’t understand that fact then I give up. I’m no fan of Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other religion. However, I’m even less of a fan of blind prejudice.

  30. Philip

    Thanks, you’re too kind!

  31. NT86

    Not to condone the EDL’s actions, but why should any gay person show any form of solidarity with Muslims, many of whom are overtly homophobic?

    The militant left enable Islamists despite standing against homophobia in any other circumstance.

  32. cigpapers

    They should start calling themselves Engaylish Defence League!

  33. Bozo

    Go into every Islamic neighborhood in Europe, and you won’t find the homophobia of “indignation and banter” but violent homophobia. There is a much more worrying brand of homophobia on the rise, predicated on the violent teachings of Prophet Muhammed, which is clearly visible in every major European city with many muslim immigrants. The ethnic background of these groups differ, but

    We have watched for decades how the likes of you claimed we could address it like any other form of homophobia and it would go away, but it doesn’t. Now, many areas are inaccessible to homosexuals, and the politically correct still promise us it will go away. Since homophobia intrinsically linked with islamic teachings, this is a blatant lie.

  34. Bozo

    I can’t edit so here it is:

    “The ethnic background of these groups differ, from pakistanis(UK) to morrocans(Holland) to Iraqis(sweden), but the common denominator is there, Islam”

  35. Bozo

    There are no areas inaccessible to Muslims, but there are areas inaccessible to non-muslims and homosexuals. Wake up you fruity, the EDL wants you and coming generations of homosexual men to be able to walk safely trough the streets in their own country. This can only be done if the politicians and the BBC stop this political correctness so we can find ways to actually solve the problem, as peacefully and as compassionate as possible.

    No one can tell me what is bigoted about the EDL, Tommy Robinson has a black god-daughter, the subject of this article is one of the EDL’s most dedicated members(a young well informed gay man) and the EDL has Sikh division, Jewish division, and people from all kinds of backgrounds.

  36. Bozo

    “This approach, of addressing homophobia in a general sense, has been the
    one adopted by gay rights groups since the 50s and it has proven to be a
    very great success”

    A great success this guy says.

    Throughout Europe all efforts made by civil rights groups is being rolled back because we are too frightened to notice Islamic theology is not intolerant of homosexuality, it is so in a violent manner.

  37. eslaporte

    So, conservatives, both in the US and UK, would make things better for Gay people? Also you failed to mention the “christian” nation of Zimbabwe, where Mugabe promises to behead Gays? If you’re a Gay person living in Christian Zimbabwe – you’d better fear for you life!

    Also – what kind of punishment did the father who shot dead his son in Turkey receive? You seem to be under the impression that the Turkish police just let a murderer go without charge and that “Turkey is not European.”
    So – did Turkish police and authorities just let a murderer who killed his own son walk free?
    That’s highly doubtful!

  38. eslaporte

    judging all “muslims” as “hating Gays” is actually quite stupid and requires no brain power…

  39. eslaporte

    The pot calls the kettle black -lol! All in the same post !!!

  40. Andy Salter

    Recent figures put the Muslim population of the UK at 2% yet they account for 25% of ant-gay attacks. Muslim commuities have set up no go areas in London for gay people and the liberal left’s response is to condemn the homosexual community for not being more sympathetic and tolerrent towards Islam’s homophobic intolerrence towards them.

    I do not suport the EDL yet I blame their existence on UAF for not only failing to confront IslamoFascisum, but for allying themselves with them and promoting Right wing homophobic, antiSemetic islamofascists to top positions within its ranks.

    It’s time for a new organisations which will Unite Against ‘ALL’ Facisum, and not use race as a yard sick for whether to confront a fascist group.

  41. Clive Julings

    The punishment for homosexuality in the Bible is also death, but thankfully not all Christians take this passage literally. The same applies to Muslims. Simply quoting from the religious texts of a religion does not prove anything about the views of its members.

  42. Clive Julings

    You can’t seriously blame Christianity’s intolerance to homosexuality on Islam. The apostle Paul was writing homophobic stuff in the epistles long before Islam even arrived. This is what happens when you join the edl, everything just gets blamed on the muslims even when its just nonsense. Its like the elders of the priory of Zion all over again.

  43. Petra Thompson

    So there is no core identity of ‘muslims’, but there is a core identity of ‘gays’.

  44. Petra Thompson

    You’d lose the wager then. Every EDL demo is tracked by about 30 photographers – some from the media, some from the Police, many from the fascist Left.

    There have been 50 to 100 EDL demos. Yet there is not one photo of someone with a rainbow flag, or an Israeli flag being attacked. There is not one photo of a black, or asian on the demo being attacked.

    Your assumptions speak volumes about your prejudice towards the working class.

  45. James O'Brien

    when did islam be come a race?

  46. James O'Brien

    u need to learn where the word racist came from and yes the “uaf” (the Nazis .2) are worse than the EDL

  47. Gerry Dorrian

    We can’t win, can we? We’re either “male, shaven-headed and white”, or suit-wearers angaged in a”pseudo-intellectual campaign of indoctrination”. When you sum up an entire movement with BBC/Guardian stereotypes I would suggest you’re running away from something; and in this context that something is the extreme homophobia of Jihadis. Jihadis, note, NOT Muslims, as integrated Muslims have as much to fear from Jihad as the rest of British society.

  48. Dan Abel

    Gays are often the first victims of muslims. I will not appease a religious ideology that seeks to destroy me. I will denounce it for what it is. A homophobic intolerant fascist religion that threatens all free people. Call me what you will but I will always fight against hate and intolerance in any form its found. Gays recognize your enemies.

  49. ChristianBritain1488

    This is ridiculous. The EDL have now sucked off liberalism by allowing the degenerate gays a division.

  50. The Pride of Prejudice: The Radical Right And The LGBTQ+ Community | Rantt

    […] couples can provide the same values as these families if they were allowed to adopt children. The LGBT Division of the English Defence League provides another space for those who are both gay (mostly men) and fervently defend the League’s […]

Leave a Reply