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EDL Report from Faithmatters.org

EDL Report from Faithmatters.org

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Published by faceless
An extensive report on the divisiveness of the EDL in relation to religous cohesion.
An extensive report on the divisiveness of the EDL in relation to religous cohesion.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: faceless on Sep 28, 2012
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05/13/2014

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The EDL is arguably the largest populist street movement to emerge in Britain since the 1970s and it
has been controversial since its conception.2

It describes itself in its manifesto as a ‘non-racist, non-
violent, human rights organisation’, whose raison d'etre is a vehement opposition to Islamic
extremism, the ‘Islamification’ of Britain, (particularly the ‘creeping’ introduction of Sharia law), and
the ‘subsequent erosion of English culture and Christian values’. However, since its emergence in
2009, the EDL has attracted hostility due to its controversial and aggressive views on Islam, and the
effect it has on communities and inter-faith relations.

The EDL claims to oppose only radical Islamism but it is frequently branded a racist network of
football hooligans who uphold and promulgate an ideology that is extremist in its ethos and

1

http://faith-matters.org/images/stories/fm-reports/english-defense-league-report.pdf p.3

2

There is some debate as to whether the EDL should be defined as a populist movement but its ideology is in
line with the Cambridge dictionary’s definition of the term: ‘political ideas and activities that are intended to
represent ordinary people's needs and wishes’. In its report, Demos also defines the EDL as a populist
movement http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Inside_the_edl_WEB.pdf?1331035419 p.3

8

virulently anti-Muslim. The most common accusation is that it employs a violent brand of cultural
racism directed against all Muslims and attempts to isolate them by severing ties between them and
other religious communities. EDL leadership deny such indictments and are quick to highlight the
inclusive policies of their ‘multi-ethnic, multi-religious movement’. Trevor Kelway, (real name Davy
Cooling), a spokesman for Casuals United – a splinter group of the EDL – has said, ‘we would march
alongside Muslims and Jews who are against militant Islam…they can join the EDL as long as they
accept an English way of life. It is the people who threaten with bombs and violence and threaten
and bomb our troops – they don't belong here’.

The EDL operates an on-going recruitment drive targeting individuals from different religious
communities; partly to increase their support base, but mainly to try and reverse the racist image
they have gained. Professor Matthew Goodwin states the EDL ‘wants members of the Sikh
community, similarly members of the Jewish community, to become involved as a way of opposing
what [they] call radical militant Islam’, and it has also targeted Christians and Hindus. It appears it is
also trying to forge links with groups that have ‘historical angst’ against Muslims, and view other
religious communities as fertile recruiting grounds. These tactics have been compared to those of
the British National Party (BNP) after the Guardian reported in 2001 that ‘racists from the BNP
joined forces with extremists from the Sikh and Hindu communities in an anti-Islamic campaign that
has been blamed for stirring up racial violence’.3

The EDL strenuously denies any similarities to the BNP, which it defines as a racist, anti-Semitic
party, and draws attention to its own faith branches, namely Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, and Pakistani
Christian.4

The EDL claims these specialist divisions prove it is not a racist group, demonstrates
diversity, and actually helps strengthen interfaith relations. On the group’s official forum, EDL leader
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, has responded to the question ‘what has the EDL
actually achieved?’ by claiming his organisation has been a positive, national force in building local
community groups and has ‘brought people of many ethnic, religious and political backgrounds
together in a way never achieved before’.5

This report questions the validity of this statement in light
of the popular opinion that the EDL in fact contributes greatly to the issues of cultural intolerance
and community division, and exacerbates intra- and interfaith tensions.

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