Not a definitive update, due to pressures of work, but a bunch of stuff I found on the web.
Proselytising Muslims in Peterborough have invited the EDL to dinner at the Khadijah Mosque after a number of conversations at their street stall.
“A member of the EDL approached us and it actually was a very positive incident.
“He was asking questions and listening to the answers we were giving.
“We had a similar incident in Wisbech previously, where a member of the EDL approached us to talk about Sharia law – he did not know what it was, but had a number of misconceptions.
“We were able to explain what Sharia law was and answer all his questions.
“When he left he actually apologised for some of his previous views.
“He was more polite than some other people who approached us, who kept interrupting and not letting us finish.”
This is in keeping with what The Guardian’s Matthew Taylor found during his undercover work among the EDL:
“Last year, I spent four months undercover on EDL demonstrations, witnessing its growing popularity. At each demonstration I attended, I was confronted by casual racism, a widespread hatred of Muslims and often the threat of violence. But I also met non-white people, gay rights activists, disaffected working class men and women, and middle-class intellectuals. I came to the conclusion that the EDL is not a simple rerun of previous far-right street groups. “
The EDL is against sharia law. It’s good to organise against religious law because religious law is deeply pernicious. Sharia law in particular is beginning to flex its muscles in my part of the world so I’m all for pushing it back. The trouble is a) that many of the EDL’s members are also violently racist, b) they frequently implicate all Muslims in the perceived threat and whip up hostility against Muslims, c) EDL business is conducted as an unsavoury expression of insecure nationalism, and d) what about political Christianity? Surely being a committed campaigning secularist is a far better, more inclusive, more positive, less discriminatory way to keep the authoritarian excesses of religion out of public life. In response to religious impositions, there is far more potential in secularism than nationalism.
The Peterborough piece continues:
“Stephen Lennon – also known as Tommy Robinson – an unofficial leader of the EDL, said he was interested in meeting with members of the mosque.
He said: “We have done similar meets across the country in the past, and it is something we would be interested in doing.
“We would not want to hold the meeting in the mosque. We would want to do it in a neutral location.
“We will be in talks with the mosque to see if this is possible.”
Update: it’s not – quite reasonably the mosque is interested in improving relations with its local EDL supporters, not the EDL as a whole.
I’m all for words and exchange – but the problem of a marching, street-dominating event can’t be directly addressed with words, so I think it will be necessary to go to Tower Hamlets on September 3rd and put as many bodies as possible in the way of the rally the EDL plan there. But the street-fighting, spirit-of-Cable-Street, wannabe-heros had better stay away. It’s hard to distinguish between racist and anti-racist among the itchy fisted geezers, presumably lacking both sex and ideas for fulfilling pursuits, who are drawn to such things as an EDL rally for the entertainment, the scars and the nostalgia. But there’s plenty of difference between resistance and provocation.
Update 25th August: News from Hope Not Hate that the Met “requested a ban on the English Defence League march in Tower Hamlets because of fears that this would whip up tensions in the area and ignite trouble”. So though they may rally in Tower Hamlets, they will not be marching through. This is a good outcome.