Notes From the Margins…

Samosas, Drinks and the EDL

  • July 12, 2011
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There was a bad result for the English Defence League (EDL) in my hometown of Cambridge on Saturday.   Some 200 EDL members attempted to march down Mill Road to protest outside the Abu Bakr Jamia Mosque in Mawson Road.    They were met by a counter-demonstration of 2,000 people, and prevented from reaching the mosque by a police cordon.

Mill Road has always been an ethnically and racially diverse area, with a high population of students and young people.  Keynote speaker MEP Richard Howitt told the Cambridge News how ‘As we all walked along Mill Road, shopkeepers were all standing outside their shops handing out samosas and drinks. I had a tear in my eye.’

All this is good.   The EDL is a peculiar and seemingly anomalous organization on the far-right, combining English ultra-nationalism, Islamophobia with the new strands of  racism that emphasise culture and religion rather than skin colour, blood or biology as a basis for hatred and exclusion.

Its leaders claim to be opposed to  ‘radical Islam”s encroachment into the lives of non-Muslims’ and profess their commitment to liberal principles of human rights,  freedom of speech, female equality and gay rights – the better to use these issues to mobilise hatred against the new Muslim enemy.

This pseudo-liberal agenda sits somewhat uneasily alongside the boozy football thuggery of its membership and the streetfighting organizational tactics of the Nazis, which constantly seek to generate high-profile street confrontations as organizational tools. Like their hero Gert Wilders, the EDL insists that these efforts are directed against ‘radical Islam’ or simply ‘Islam’ rather than Muslims in general.

The people of Mill Road knew better.  As Britain’s new age of ideologically-driven ‘austerity’ continues to eat away at at public services, jobs and living standards, the EDL will undoubtedly continue its attempts to mobilise popular resentment and bitterness against Muslims and immigrants in general.

This time they failed.


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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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