I have been hanging around on the fringes of the English Defence League recently, don't jump to any conclusions though, I have not suddenly altered my political stance or my liberal outlook on life, I was just interested in seeing if the EDL were actually the sort of people they say they are. What the EDL claim to be (and I would have posted their entire political statement as I did with the MDL earlier, but their website is down again so I can't copy/paste it) is 'Peacefully Protesting Against Militant Islam.'
I don't have a problem with their stated aim, in fact, as a fairly narrow aim I am actually in support of it, the more militant and extreme edge of Islam is bringing suffering and fear to millions of people across the world. The overwhelming majority of Muslim people are fairly ordinary folk like you and me, just with a different way to pray, so they should be no problem for the EDL, right ? Well, it just doesn't work that way.
The two main forums for EDL chat are their own forum page, and their Facebook support page. The facebook page is filled on a regular basis with fairly vile racist comments and anti-Islamic rhetoric. People posting on the wall scour the Internet for news items and video containing Muslim people, especially Muslim leaders, committing crimes or talking about Jihad, these types of story are posted on a regular basis to bolster their own tunnel vision world view. The EDL see a tiny fraction of the actions of a religion, and believe that all the people within that group think and act and believe in exactly the same manner.
"we should send all these muslims back to there own fucking countrys" - In response to a video about a mugging committed by young Muslim men.
"If it aynt white it aynt rite send it back" - In a thread discussing the aims and directions of the EDL, this sort of comment is regularly echoed.
There is a fairly delicious irony in the fact that on the page of the English Defence League you will come across some of the worst examples of written English ever committed to print.
Whilst the EDL members claim that their videos and news stories are factual and representative of the Muslim faith, they perform an about face when other people claim that views expressed on the wall are merely race hate, trolls they cry, all the racist comments are made by Muslim trolls posting on here to defame us and make the EDL look bad. Even a brief perusal of the EDL wall will disabuse you of that claim, the sheer amount of race and religious hate and the large number of people posting it, with their Facebook visible links to other EDL and quasi white power groups shows that the EDL seems to just a collective of people who hate Islam and the people that follow it.
Over on the EDL forum the language tends to be a little more restrained, but the aims are similar. If the aim of the EDL is to oppose militant Islam, but claims to be tolerant of the majority of Muslims, then why are there threads dedicated to opposing the building of mosques, to encourage supporters not to buy food made from halal meat, and to further define their 'understanding' of Islam by forever bringing topics like terrorism, honour killing, forced marriage and pedophilia into almost every discussion.
The English Defence League does not oppose militant Islam, it opposes Islam full stop, no matter what its leaders may claim. I accept that there may be a few EDL members who believe in the party line, but the large majority come across as refugees from the NF/BNP. The forums are filled with people who have a particular view and seek to express it in a like minded community, and use a narrow selection of news and politics to support the position they have taken.
The level of support for extremist groups like the EDL is worrying, and the hate they express frightening. These are people with whom you cannot engage in reasonable argument, any left of centre view will have you showered with abuse and touted as a "Paki lover" or similar. What can be done then to counter these people ? I honestly don't know, I don't know how you change their minds, how to get them to accept people (in exactly the same way as I don't know how you could get radical Muslims to moderate their views), how to make them more understanding and tolerant. There are a lot of people out there, on all sides, with hatred on their minds.