The inevitability of the EDL
The UK government play a blame game when it comes to extremism, and they manage to blame almost everything but themselves. David Cameron recently said that the British government will “drain the swamp” in which extremism grows and that extremists were creating a “culture of victimhood”. This idea of victimhood may have come about due to the UK’s involvement in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Playing the supporting role to the US yet still being heavily involved, the UK needs to accept that it has been involved in two bloody invasions that are responsible for destabilisation of whole regions and mass civilian death, and resentment of these actions is inevitable. When you export death, you can expect it to become import sooner or later.
David Cameron, and other UK leaders and key officials, have a tendency to distance UK foreign policy from any blame when it comes to extremism and that opens the door for the EDL. By not acknowledging that there may be at least some blame on the part of the UK, you place the blame entirely on someone else. Government rhetoric has seen the blame for extremism fall almost entirely on the shoulders of British Muslims. Given the prominent veins of racism that exist within British society and consecutive government’s rhetoric surrounding British Muslims have led to a rise in prominence of far right politics in Britain as the native racists look for an excuse to be violent. The EDL are an especially grotesque example of this perpetually right leaning trend in British politics, with UKIP being the “acceptable” face of British fascism, and the British government are in no rush to prevent the racism of the EDL. The UK government’s reluctance to acknowledge the failings of foreign policy is fuelling the far right in the UK and endangering the lives of British Muslims.
It’s not just the government that are creating an environment in which the far right can thrive; the mainstream media also has to take its share of the blame. The BBC report on the burning down of the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre stated the arson was an “apparent racially motivated” attack. It was only “apparent” despite there being EDL graffiti at the site. I highly doubt British fascist burned down the building because they didn’t like the architecture, I think we could go beyond saying this was an apparently racially motivated attack.
Some may be saying this was an attack on Islam, and Islam is not a race, but this attack is still racist. We need to start treating Islamophobia for the blatant racism that it is and the dangerous hate crimes that it enables. Whether it’s coming from the government, the Daily Mail, or Richard Dawkins, Islamophobia is little more than thinly veiled racism that looks to construct the image of a savage Muslim other that is present in society.
The burning down of this Islamic centre has been treated in a completely different manner to the Woolwich killing. There has been nowhere near the same level of outcry at the display of such reckless hate, in fact the announcement of Roberto Martinez as Everton manager was higher than the burning down of the Islamic centre in the list of headlines on the BBC news site. Do you think that if a Christian church was burned down the calls of terrorism would be as cautious as the potential accusation of racism involved in burning down the Islamic centre? There have been no calls for members of the white community to distance themselves from the EDL and explain how this does not represent what they believe, yet it is expected that Islamic groups must separate and condemn any violent act done in the name of Islam.
Even if the burning down of the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre is somehow proved not to be a racially motivated attack or act of domestic terrorism, the level of caution in judgement and the framing of the culprits between this attack and the events in Woolwich are miles apart. Quickly following the horrific events in Woolwich, the BBC described the attackers as being of “Muslim appearance”. You have to ask the BBC what a Muslim is supposed to look like and if the potential culprits of the arson case are of “Christian appearance”.
In the aftermath of the brutal killing in Woolwich, many media sources reported on the rise in “reprisal” attacks on British Muslims. Describing the instances of British fascists attacking Muslims and mosques as “reprisals” in the wake of the Woolwich killing implicates British Muslims in the event. These hate crimes are not reprisals, it would only be a reprisal if those being attacked were somehow involved in the event that the attacks were supposedly reaping revenge for. As well as being implicated in the actions of extremists, you often see British Muslims being described as “moderates”. The phase “moderate Muslim” implicitly suggests that British Muslims hold sympathises towards the extremism exhibited by a tiny minority of people claiming to represent their religion.
The reporting of the burning down of the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre and the rise in hate crimes against Muslims shortly after the Woolwich have exposed the horrendous double standards of British media.
Together the UK government and media have created a swamp in which far right extremists, like the EDL, can thrive. They have created a culture of impunity in which all foreign policy is justified under a distortion of humanitarianism and national security.