The two top leaders of the English Defence League have left the organization to join the Quilliam Foundation, a mainstream NGO that fights “extremism” in all its forms. Among other actions, Quilliam takes great pains to prevent the stigmatization of Muslims by “Islamophobes”.
Ever since Tommy was released early from prison last winter, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and now it has. It seemed obvious back then that attempts would be made to “turn” him while he was in solitary confinement, offering him both carrots and sticks to cease his anti-Shariah advocacy as the head of the EDL.
The first carrot was his early release. That was followed by a series of increasingly unpleasant sticks — arrest after arrest after arrest. Later this month he is facing trial for one of the Woolwich-related arrests. Presumably the judicial authorities had a quiet word with him about how long he would spend behind bars this time. He may have been facing the prospect of only being able to see his kids once a week through that glass wall, while they grew up without him. He might have seen his family forced into destitution, ostracism, and humiliation.
Then along came the Quilliam carrot. The Quilliam Foundation is one of those quasi-governmental entities that exists to serve the purposes of the governing elites. A coordinated strategy involving it would serve to decapitate the EDL, driving much of the membership of the regional divisions into the arms of the BNP. From the point of view of Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband, nothing could be better: the EDL’s effectiveness as street force would be reduced, a renewed BNP would mop up the “Islamophobic” opposition and marginalize them further, and support for UKIP would be weakened.
The BNP is not the real threat to the British Powers That Be — it is widely seen as being an appendage of MI5, and is kept within a cozy anti-Semitic corral like the NPD in Germany, unable to achieve any meaningful electoral success whilst drawing the support of discontented nationalists.
What really makes the well-coiffed heads in Whitehall turn prematurely white is the thought that growing support for the EDL might merge with the grassroots surge that is now pushing UKIP ahead of one or more major parties in local elections and public opinion polls. An EDL-UKIP juggernaut must be their big nightmare, and that has now been shrewdly avoided by moving Tommy and Kevin into a harmless position within an organization that acts as a stooge for the government.
Any demoralized EDL members who turn to the BNP for solace are making a serious strategic error, but their sentiments are understandable — why would they embrace UKIP, which from their perspective is weak dishwater as a political party?
As for Tommy and Kevin, all we can do is wish them well in their new positions. Tommy is a courageous scrapper with an uncommon amount of grit. A lesser man would have folded years ago. I have no illusions about my own courage — I would have given in the first time the cell door clanged shut behind me, or when the first fist connected with my cheekbone. Tommy has earned my enduring admiration.
Godspeed to both of them. And maybe the luck of the Irish as well.
Below are excerpts from a BBC report about Tommy’s and Kev’s decision:
EDL Leader Tommy Robinson Quits Group
English Defence League leader and founder Tommy Robinson has left the group, saying he has concerns over the “dangers of far-right extremism”.
The EDL organises protests across the UK against “radical Islam”.
Mr Robinson said it was still his aim to “counter Islamist ideology”, although “not with violence but with better, democratic ideas”.
Several senior figures have quit, but an EDL spokesman said the group “will not die because they’re walking away”.
He added that supporters would spend the next few weeks discussing how to proceed.
‘No longer productive’
The EDL, formed in 2009, has organised marches and demonstrations in several cities across the UK, which have seen sometimes violent confrontations with anti-fascism campaigners.
Mr Robinson’s co-leader, Kevin Carroll, has also opted to leave.
Their decision follows discussions with the Quilliam group, which describes itself as a “counter-extremism think tank”.
Mr Robinson said: “I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive.
“I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”
He explained his motives for leaving, telling BBC Radio 5 live’s Nicky Campbell: “When some moron lifts up his top and he’s got the picture of a mosque saying ‘boom’ and it’s all over the national newspapers, it’s me, it’s when I pick up my kids from school the parents are looking at me, judging me on that.
“And that’s not what I’ve stood for and my decision to do this is to be true to what I stand for. And whilst I want to lead the revolution against Islamist ideology, I don’t want to lead the revolution against Muslims.
“I believe that the revolution needs to come from within the Islamic community and they need to stand up. And I believe this is a step forward not a step back.”
Mr Robinson also wrote on Twitter: “The most difficult day of my life! I thank EDL supporters for their messages of support. For me this is a step forwards not backwards.”
Quilliam said it hoped Mr Robinson would “invest his energy and commitment in countering extremism of all kinds, supporting the efforts to bring along his former followers and encouraging his critique of Islamism as well as his concern with far-right extremism”.
Chairman Maajid Nawaz said: “As well as being a very positive change for the United Kingdom, this is a very proud moment for Quilliam. This represents not a change but a continuation for us, as challenging extremism of all kinds forms the basis of our work.
“We have been able to show that Britain stands together against extremism regardless of political views and hope to continue supporting Tommy and Kevin in their journey to counter Islamism and neo-Nazi extremism.”
Mr Robinson and Mr Carroll are due to face trial later this month, charged with obstructing police officers near the scene of the killing of soldier Lee Rigby.
Hat tip: Jolie Rouge.